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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

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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

Comments for "How to Cope With a Gambling Addiction"

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  • liesl5858 profile image

    Linda Bryen 3 years ago from United Kingdom

    what a fantastic hub about gambling. I know I am also a gambler as I do the lottery and sometimes the scratch cards but I have cut down a lot this days. I only do the lottery when it is a roll over. But yes gambling can take over someone's life. Some people even lose their possessions like houses, cars and anything and most of all their self respect.

  • profile image

    On the bus right now 3 years ago

    Just heading back home after losing $2000 that's just today. Lost enough in the past and screwed my credit too..that's it I'm done with this. Gambling is ruining my life, finacinally,mentally and distancing me from family and friends. Please stop gambling we will never win back the money we lost. If you keep doing it the end result would be backrupcy and mental illness.

  • profile image

    Ben Bautista 3 years ago from USA

    This site helps me a lot to my recovery...I'm a compulsive gambler! After so many painfull experiences from gambling....finally , I called it quits!!! I accept my defeat......I lost! Started a new life...gambling free....god bless!

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

    Gambling is a hidden addiction that can creep in and destroy families if not carefully understood. Thank you for all of your comments on the topic, I hope this sets even one person in a healing direction.


  • Denise Handlon profile image

    Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

    India-this is such an important topic to present. It is a serious problem and one that will frequently tear families apart and often be a source of financial ruin that can lead to suicide.

    I just read Diana Lee's comment and there is so much more about what is a gambler or the gambler's personality. Everything is a gamble including 'how far they can go on a tank of gas before having to fill it up' or 'who can spit a mouthful of beer the furthest' or 'how many fish they'll each catch in a day of fishing'. It's amazing!

    I really appreciate you addressing this and although my story, The Gambler, is 'fiction', the character is based on a conglomeration of people who are gamblers. Voted up/U/I/B and I'm linking it to my story. Thanks.

  • Diana Lee profile image

    Diana L Pierce 5 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

    This is a good topic. I don't think most people realize that buying lottery tickets and raffle tickets is gambling. I know many people addicted to this kind of gambling. It is the hardest to control because the access to it is everywhere. My husband is very addicted to lottery tickets. He admits it, but doesn't stop or even slow down on buying them. He is spending money he could be saving for retirement. I hope he hits a big jackpot or he may not be able to retire as soon as he wants to.

  • Eiddwen profile image

    Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

    A great hub on such an important subject.

    Thank you for sharing and enjoy your weekend.


  • carol7777 profile image

    carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

    I am a poker player and know addiction always in the outskirts. However I take a certain amount of money to play and leave when gone. And I only play every two or three weeks. But I understand how addiction can happen...I know that if I lose I cannot make up the loss and that separates me from those who keep thinking they will win. It is a tough addiction...

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Yes, Linda Sue....LOTTO is gambling....honey. I know, because I am a lotto well as a raffle ticket junkie and I'm crazy about Chinese Auctions!!! The reason we don't think of it as gambling is because we're only spending a few dollars each time! But, that's all I can afford LMAO.

    It scares me to think what I might advance to if I actually had the bucks to throw at a gambling addiction!! No addictions like that for me please!!

    K9....addictions!! They're everywhere.....and it seems every single human being has SOMETHING they do to extreme.....I guess it matters only when it becomes destructive. It's always a matter of degree. Thanks for this awesome hub about gambling addiction....maybe I should run down to the casino(that I do NOT frequent) and post it in the doorway!!!............UP+++

  • DanaTeresa profile image

    Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

    This is very interesting. My grandfather is an alcoholic and compulsive gambler. Now that he is in his 80's he doesn't go to the extreme that many do, but he drinks and bets every day. And he gets very stressed when he can't do one or both of those things.... My boyfriend gambles. He used to have a drug and alcohol problem and he just seems to have rolled it over to betting. His bills are always paid, he has no debt. But when I think if all the time and evergy he spends on it nd all the stress is sometime causes him, I wish he would stop. He has cut back. And he is glad he did. One step at a time I guess...

    Thank you for getting this information out there.

  • Sunshine625 profile image

    Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

    I have quite a few addictions, except for gambling. Well, maybe. If playing the lotto and scratch offs are gambling then I'll have to add gambling to my list. OK, I just did. I'm good with this addiction also! :)