Gambling Addiction

By: Dan Johnson

Gambling: My Interests

I am interested in researching gambling because of the fact that it is an addiction that does not physically affect the person who is pursuing the action. For example, when someone is addicted to drugs, they physically take the substance and it enters into their bloodstream. Therefore, physically altering their bodily functions and the way their brain thinks. This is different for gambling because it is not physical, but 100% psychological and affects each addict differently on how their personal brain analyzes and reacts to what is happening in their gambling games.

Gambling: History of Addiction

Gambling and "games of chance" have been a known pastime for many civilizations for centuries and the origins have even been traced back to the earliest cavemen who made "dice-like" shapes out of sheep bones. Games of chance began their rise to fame in 2300 B.C, when the Chinese invented a game of chance including tiles. Although gambling had been a pastime for many walks of life, the first casino was not built until 1638, in Italy. The original diagnosis of a "gambling addiction" was considered to be an impulsive control disorder where the user could not feel good unless they had bet on a game of chance or else it would cause them great stress and uncertainty to perform in daily life. The picture below is what defined a pathological gambler in the year 1980.
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Gambling: Biological Reasoning

As previously stated, pathological gambling is defined as an impulse control disorder, meaning that the addict has no control over stopping their addiction once it starts. PG (pathological gambling) has been linked, through many tests and data collections, to Substance use Disorders meaning that the user needs to gamble in order to feel normal and they would feel abnormal or different if they did not gamble on a daily basis. The act of gambling or betting money on chance games is the equivalent to a pathological gambler as a drug abuser taking a hit of their respective drug to feel better and be able to forget about the stresses of their life. Users get addicted to gambling because once they experience the rush of placing a big bet or winning a big hand, they want to keep feeling that sensation and will not stop until they have lost all of their money and more. This sensation is the release of dopamine in the user's brain when they have just achieved something rewarding and it makes them feel empowered and happy. This feeling is what drives the addict to not be able to stop and will play the game until they have nothing left.

Gambling: Treatments

The main objective for a pathological gambler is not to make them quit cold turkey at first, but to make them grow a relationship and respect for money itself and how it not only affects themselves but also the people around them. Gambling addictions are treated similar to most other addictions in the fact that there are options to go to a rehab center for a month to a year at a time to recover and kick the addiction. Also, the option to take classes at a rehab center while still living at home and going through everyday life is a popular one as well. For less fortunate addicts who can not afford the costly rehab centers, they can attend GA (Gamblers Anonymous) meetings in order to be instituted a plan to help them quit their addiction through everyday life with support from family. The treatments for gambling addicts are not as severe as other addictions, such as a drug addict, and therefore they are rather effective in helping the affected group of people. Withdrawal symptoms can include severe anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide. These symptoms are only intensified depending on how much the individual has lost. Most people who truly want to kick their addiction and go back to life before gambling do so and achieve it mostly with ease especially with the help of close friends or loved ones.

Gambling: Statistics

It is estimated that around 2-3% of Americans suffer from being a pathological gambler which means millions are affected by it daily. There is no definite answer on how many people become an addict every year but within the last few years, it has become more and more easy to gamble through online sources from living in the new world of technology. There has also been a huge increase in women becoming gambling addicts, related to this technology burst as of late since this disorder has been mostly common among men for the majority of its existence. Although it is not very common, some cases of pathological gamblers lead to suicide from severe depression and loss of self worth with no thought of being able to escape from reality. Many each year enroll in rehab and 12-step programs to help them better themselves and more often than not, the treatment is successful for them. A stat that blows my mind is that around 15% of all Americans gamble every single week. This fact is interesting because it shows how popular gambling has gotten in the last few years and how easy it is for anyone to jump on a phone or computer and instantly be put into an online poker game or lottery drawing of some kind. The age of technology has directly impacted the way people look at gambling and think that it might not be a big deal to just throw a few hundred dollars into a poker game to see what happens. Also, 15% is many millions of people and if not taken seriously by the population there could become many more cases of addiction growing in not only the U.S. but worldwide as well.

Gambling: Everyday Life

A gambling addict tends to lose control of how much money and time they have wasted gambling and it takes away from their real life responsibilities like taking care of a family or working to support yourself/them. It can turn nice and genuine people into crazed individuals who are angry all the time and deeply depressed knowing that they will never be able to regain what they have lost. They can tend to become more and more physical when they do not get their way or someone tries to talk some sense into them on why what they are doing is bad and does not only affect them but everyone around them. If it is not treated soon or spotted by someone who cares then the disorder can take over someone's life and be, in some cases, lethal to one's health usually ending in suicide. Also, pathological gamblers are prone to triggers and anytime they see a commercial or drive by a casino, their mind will instantly go off and they will not be able to contain themselves from fulfilling their urge.

Gambling: Fun Facts

- In 1970, the average age for gambling was 30-55. Today it is now 17-70. This is astonishing while also concerning that more people are getting access to gambling at a very young age and not stopping until a rather old age even sometimes after retirement!

- There are bingo games in Las Vegas that have a winning jackpot of over $20,000 and are played daily. The game is, unfortunately, not just ruled by nursing home patients it turns out.