Is Gambling A Form Of Addiction?

Is Gambling A Form Of Addiction?

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Gambling industry is rapidly growing. The number of compulsive gamblers is growing larger every day with devastating consequences for gamblers and their families.

According to the American Gaming Association, in 1991, Americans spent 8.6 billion dollars on various forms of gambling. In 2001, just ten years later, the figure had tripled to 25.7 billions!

Not too distant a future, gambling may surpass alcoholism. Gambling can foster physical and psychological dependence. Despite the fact that gambling is not a chemical like alcohol, tobacco or caffeine, it can still trigger a chemical chain reaction in your body. It can give a powerful "high" and a tortuous withdrawal effect.

Casino, state run lottery, bingo, black jack tables, and "one armed bandit," such as the poker machine and keno are everywhere. Many families arrange their vacations primarily for an opportunity for "playing," a.k.a. gambling.

A wise person once said, "Nothing is more deceptive than the obvious truth." Gambling is one of the obvious truths. A lot of people look at it as "recreation. " Remember that odd expression, "recreational drugs?"

At lest, cocaine, alcohol or other drugs don't create the expectation of offering wealth to its addicts. But gambling does. To some, gambling is the Expressway to the Rich City. Recreation and fun provided at each stop.

We tend to see gambling is an isolated problem. It is never an isolated problem. It is a symptom of malfunction and maladjustment in several different areas of personal and social life.

The more the gamblers lose, the more optimistic and hopeful they become about winning next time. Do you know any other game where the more you lose the more determined you become to win? Unfortunately, compulsive gamblers believe they are poised to win in total defiance of the theory of probability. They hope the next bid would surely hit the jackpot!

When the losses and debts pile up, families, relatives and friends of gamblers overlook other problems and focus on gambling. They plead and beg that their loved ones should stop gambling. Such partial efforts fail because they target gambling alone and not the entire gamut of the problem.

Many with a gambling problem have stopped spending time with their families a long time before gambling became a primary issue. There might be a long history of marital tension or an ongoing conflict with their family of origin.

Some are unhappy that they have lost the chance of ever fulfilling their dreams. Some keep on regretting for having lost the only chance they had of "becoming somebody."

Some are clinically depressed. And may have a long history of untreated depression. Gambling became their choice of self-medication.

Some have a co-morbid addiction, which means that they might have already been addicted to a drug and one day took to gambling for an additional high. Ironically, some might have started gambling to support their drug habit or to recover from the devastating financial consequences of their drug habit.

Gambling often force people to incur more debt. They have "maxed out" on the credit cards and borrowed all they could. Even the money they make from traditional means of earning goes into gambling because they feel their earning is too small to make a dent in the huge debt they have. Mortgage and other cyclical payments might have gone past the grace period.

Out of desperation and in the hope of clearing the entire debt in one lucky stroke, they lose whatever little they have. Thus, the cycle of borrowing and losing more keeps on running. Bankruptcy, foreclosure of the house and even loss of job may be some of the economic consequences of gambling.

Also, there severe psychological-emotional consequences of gambling. Many face divorce, alienation from the family and health problems caused by stress, and compulsive gambling.

It is rarely sufficient to make a resolution such as, "Tomorrow I am just not going there (the site of gambling)." Unless, compulsive gamblers work through the events and "triggers" that set them up for gambling, recovery is likely to be a short one. An all out frontal attack of the problem is the most desirable approach.

Here is an example of such an approach: learning to control the "craving" for gambling, which is often triggered by specific times, places and persons; setting personal and family goals; working through impaired relationships; learning targeted occupational and social skills; receiving financial management and credit counseling and working through the depression and other emotional disorders.

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Copyright 2004, Mind Publications 
Posted March 2004


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