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How to Cope With a Gambling Addiction

Updated on December 6, 2012
Royal Flush and Snake-eye Dice
Royal Flush and Snake-eye Dice | Source

What You Think Really Does Matter!

Do you, or someone you know have a gambling problem?

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Human Nature And Gambling

Have We Always Gambled

As long ago as 1000 bc, archaeological excavations have been unearthing gambling implements such as dice and gaming boards. We find evidence of gambling in just about every culture across the world and throughout time. Which goes to show just how engrained gambling is within the nature of the human being.

In America, gambling has played an intrinsic roll in growing top Ivy league schools, as well as financing high powered wars. Lotteries were established in all 13 colonies before the American Republic was even founded.

Today, gambling is a perfectly legitimate social outlet—despite the trials and tribulations of the Louisiana lottery scandals of the 1870s. Currently, Hawaii and Utah are the only two states where legalized gambling is not found in America.

Legitimate Gambling

Even though most people view gambling as a socially acceptable activity, it would seem that the statistics surrounding it show our proclivity for abusing such inherently risky behavior. Let's take a look at just a few.

  • approximately 85% of all Americans have gambled at some point in their lives
  • as many as 80% of Americans admit to gambling at least once annually
  • 23% report gambling weekly

Gambling has become the largest money making venture, generating higher revenues than any other leisure-time event. Which translated to almost $85 billion in 2005.

Ace and King of spades
Ace and King of spades | Source

US Dollars Spent On Gambling

Gambling Addiction

The $85 billion dollars spent on gambling in 2005, amounted to ten times the amount of money made by other popular forms of entertainment. Also in 2005;

  • almost $23 billion was made by American Indian casinos
  • state lotteries made about $50 billion
  • internet gambling accounted for around $6 billion

With such staggering numbers being calculated, it is no wonder the medical as well as mental health research field is studying the activity more than ever before. It would seem that, pathological gambling has made the hit-list of human addictions.

Gambling Is Harmless Fun

Pathological Gambling

Sadly, a great number of individuals find gambling becomes more than recreation, and in severe instances, a heartbreaking tale of human destruction. These severe cases—or pathological gambling—is recognized as a mental heath disorder. The effects of this disorder can include psychological distress, great financial loss, family destruction, legal issues, job loss, and even suicide. This intense psychological condition has escalated since the mid 1970s, where it measured less than 0.77% of the population; in 2008, it was estimated at more than 5%.

Gambling And Alcohol Abuse

Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) And Gambling

With recent and greater research growing around the topic of gambling addition, the information gathered shows some startling crossovers between gambling problems and substance abuse problems, particularly alcohol abuse (Petry study, 2007). It was found that 30% to 70% of those in treatment (inpatient and outpatient) experience a crossover addiction of both gambling and drinking. This calculates that almost 10% of all lifelong addicted gamblers will also be lifelong addicted alcoholics. (Compared to 1% of the non-gambling addicted population.)

Alcohol and gambling seem to go hand in hand!
Alcohol and gambling seem to go hand in hand! | Source

Pathological gambling and SUDs share five diagnostic criteria:

  1. preoccupation
  2. tolerance
  3. withdrawal
  4. repeated unsuccessful attempts to cut back or quit
  5. interference in major areas of life function

Along with this finding, it is also documented that the attrition rate for both come in at around 50%, while the relapse rate measures at 80% to 90% in the first year of recovery. Which has changed the diagnosis for some within the field from a process disorder, to an actual addiction (Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2010).

Gambling Is A Hidden Addiction

How Do I Know If Someone Has A Gambling Addiction

This is a tough one;as there are no outwardly physical symptoms found in a gambling addiction like you may find in a substance addiction—i.e., needle puncture marks, alcohol breath, extreme pupil size, or slurred speech. You can't test for the addiction using the normal methods of discovery like a breathalyzer or blood and urine screening. All of this makes detecting a gambling disorder far more difficult than with a SUD. Unfortunately, this also makes early detection and intervention nearly impossible. Tragically, this single fact can make the speed in which a gambling problem turns into a pathological addiction a far more rapid progression than with other (SUDs) addictions.

Gamblers Anonymous

Gamblers Anonymous
Gamblers Anonymous | Source

Treatment For Gambling Problem

Gambling Addiction Treatment

Frequently the problem of a gambling addiction goes untreated. Even as some pretty good options are available, few addicts seem to seek help. The numbers speak louder than words; as few as 7% of lifetime pathological gamblers seek out formal treatment of any kind—including Gamblers Anonymous. Which leaves a whopping 93% of those who suffer with the addiction to go untreated by a professional provider.

12 Step Program For Gambling Addiction

The more commonly known Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has a useful approach for gamblers as well, with findings showing the concept of abstinence effective to some degree for both groups. AA's sister group, Gamblers Anonymous (GA) uses a 12 step program with a few small differences within its wording. However, both programs manage the idea of maintaining an understanding for high-risk situations and how to cope, handle, and even avoid them. The major idea is to develop lifestyle modifications that promote healthy behaviors. A few of these behavior modifications that can help with a gambling problem—in particular—are;

Behavior Intervention For Gamblers

  • limit exposure to high-risk situations
  • self banning from gaming houses
  • limit available access to money
  • cancel credit cards
  • don't carry cash
  • don't carry credit or ATM cards
  • use direct deposit for income

Medications for gambling addiction
Medications for gambling addiction | Source

Medications For Gambling Problems

Addiction Recovery Medications

The application of pharmaceutical therapy for a pathological gambling addiction is still REALLY new. To date, no U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved medications are available. But, the commonalities between SUDs and gambling addiction bring to mind that what works for the goose, may in fact work for the gander. Drugs like serotonin reuptake inhibitors and those that change glutamatergic activity, do show hope for decreasing the craving, controlling mood, and reducing the reward-seeking behaviors that come with any addiction (Karim & Chaudri, 2012).

Find Out If You Are A Compulsive Gambler

20 hand picked questions are the first line of discovery in the battle to rid your life of a pathological gambling addiction. You only have to be honest with yourself.

How Will You Answer These 20 Questions?


Many treatment programs and therapeutic opportunities are available for those who have or know someone who has a gambling problem; abstinence would seem to be the best of them all. While the research and understanding continues within the field of addiction, it is good to know that options are available today. The first step in confronting any addiction, requires that one first confronts the addiction! I'm betting you can quit!

10 Gambling Addiction Statistics

1. A greater number of families who have a gambling addicted person living in the home suffer domestic violence and child abuse.
2. Those who are considered drinkers, are at a higher risk of developing a gambling addiction.
3. Almost 5% of all adults are considered addicted to gambling.
4. Americans have spent over $600 BILLION in gambling wagers.
5. 73 million Americans patronized one of the country's 1,200 casinos, card rooms or bingo parlors in 2005.
6. In states that have the lottery, casinos, keno in every bar, and charity poker rooms, the problem is greater.
7. Las Vegas, Nevada has higher rates of addiction, foreclosures, and burglary, than anywhere else in the country (and probably the world). Gambling is even available in Kmart and 7-11.
8. Only 26 states have councils on problem gambling.
9. Some statistics indicate that as much as 30% of gaming revenues come from 3% of gamblers.
10. Less than 10% of problem gamblers are diagnosed in a primary care setting.

Information derived from No Gambling Addiction USA Stats


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