Gambling Addiction - It's Never in the Cards

by Sam Malone

When we hear the word gambling, we usually think of cards, roulette, slots, craps, and so on. However, you don’t have to play cards, or travel all the way to a casino to gamble. You can gamble and get addicted to the habit, even when you are just sitting at home. Lottery, off-track betting, sports booking and betting online are all different forms of gambling. It may seem like a harmless, fun activity that you engage in just once a while. Before you know it, you may find yourself betting on various things more often.

When people gamble, it is not just them that are affected; their families, relatives, friends, employers and community, all bear the brunt of their addiction. Some of the harmful effects of gambling include:

  • Losing a significant amount of money, which can lead to bankruptcy or poverty
  • Accumulating a high debt
  • Excessive stress, which could also lead to domestic violence and child abuse
  • Health problems like depression, anxiety and unexplained anger
  • Substance abuse
  • Loss of career, family and a social life

Some gamblers try to steal money from family, friends, employers and strangers, just to pay off their debts. There have been many instances where gamblers have tried to commit suicide, because they cannot get rid of the problems, caused by their addiction.

To treat this addiction, people need to recognize its signs and admit that there is a problem. Some of the symptoms of gambling addiction include:

  • Constantly thinking about recovering or making money by placing bets
  • Feeling the urge to be secretive about your betting activities
  • Having difficulty walking away from a scene where betting is taking place
  • Ignoring work and family commitments to gamble
  • Alienating friends, relative and some family members too

As the problem continues, the symptoms become more serious. The signs that should raise a red-flag of a gambling addiction include:

  • Betting the money, you don’t even have
  • Committing crimes like stealing, forgery or fraud, to finance your activities
  • Depending on others for money
  • Decrease in ambition, because work interferes with gambling

It is imperative to consult a specialist and undergo the right treatment as soon as any of the symptoms given above become evident. Most people who are trying to free themselves of gambling addiction are referred to Gambler’s Anonymous (GA).

Since every person is different, the treatment for gambling addiction should be specifically tailored to meet individual needs. However, in most cases, the treatment includes a combination of:

  • Addiction medication, such as naltrexone
  • Antidepressants like fluvoxamine and clomipramine
  • Anti-seizure drugs like carbamazepine and topiramate
  • Mood stabilizers, such as lithium
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive behavior therapy

These medications should never be taken, unless they are prescribed by a doctor. The treatment for gambling addiction should be closely monitored by a team of specialists for at least a year or so.

  1. Becona E, Del Carmen Lorenzo M, Fuentes MJ. (1996) Pathological gambling and depression. Psychological Reports, 78, 635-640
  2. National Council on Problem Gambling, American Psychiatric Association, National Institutes of Heath

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