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Gambling is a bustling industry in the U.S. and across the globe. More than 77 million Americans visited a casino within the past year, according to a 2015 market research survey conducted by Nielsen Scarborough. In addition, online gambling has been growing exponentially in recent years, with a forecast to reach more than 15 billion dollars by 2020. For many, gambling is an occasional pastime that does not impact their daily life. However, others find that gambling becomes an addiction that disrupts their professional and personal life in profoundly destructive ways. The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that around five million Americans may meet the criteria for compulsive gambling.

Causes and Risk Factors

It can be difficult to understand why some people develop a gambling addiction and others do not. Some of the factors that might create a higher risk for a disorder include:

  • Age – Gambling addiction is more common in younger and middle-aged individuals, although it can also be problematic in the senior population.
  • Gender – Although men tend to struggle with this addiction more than women, women may develop an addiction more quickly and later in life.
  • Medications – Some medications, such as those used to treat restless leg syndrome, may increase your risk for addictions like gambling or shopping.
  • Influences – If you have friends or family members that gamble frequently or exhibit signs of a gambling addiction, you are more likely to do so as well.
  • Mental Health or Substance Abuse Disorders – People with these disorders may be more likely to develop a gambling addiction, creating a dangerous combination for some.
  • Personality Characteristics – People who are highly competitive or suffer from workaholism may be more likely to also form a gambling addiction, which explains in part why professionals in high-demand professions may be susceptible to this disorder.

Symptoms of a Gambling Addiction

How do you know when a hobby becomes an addiction? These are signs that could indicate your gambling has evolved into a disorder:

  • Inability to stop gambling, even when you want to stop
  • Continuing to gamble until all your money is gone
  • Gambling with money you don’t have
  • Preoccupation with gambling and how to get more money to gamble
  • Hiding gambling habits from friends and family
  • Gambling even when it causes problems with your personal or professional relationships
  • Attempting to regain lost money by more gambling
  • Stealing or lying to get more money for gambling

When gambling becomes an addiction, it may require professional treatment to turn away from the disorder and break the gambling cycle.

Long-Term Repercussions

While it might not seem like gambling is as destructive as addiction to drugs and alcohol, the long-term repercussions can be truly devastating. A gambling addiction can lead to loss of relationships, unemployment and financial ruin in severe cases. Some that fall into the trap of gambling addiction may begin to consider suicide as the only way out of their debt. Because the consequences of problem gambling can have a profound impact on an individual’s life as well of the lives of family and friends, prompt treatment is vital to preserving financial health and quality of life.

Gambling Addiction and Substance Abuse

Studies have indicated that substance abuse and gambling addiction have similar effects on the brain. Both affect the rewards system, releasing extra dopamine into the body that provides a pleasurable, euphoric effect. However, both substance use and gambling can also lead to tolerance, which means the individual will need more to achieve the same positive effects over time. For substance abusers, that means taking higher doses of the drug or drinking more alcohol. For a compulsive gambler, it means raising the stakes of the game to keep the “high” going.

The co-existence of a gambling addiction and substance use disorder, known as a co-occurring disorder, can exacerbate the effects of both conditions. For example, a person that suffers a significant loss at the blackjack table may turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of dulling the pain. Use of substances can also decrease inhibitions, compelling a gambler to place higher and higher bets.

Treatment Options

A co-occurring disorder that includes both a gambling addiction and substance use disorder must be addressed comprehensively for treatment to be successful. The Center for Professional Recovery offers treatment to professionals in high-profile industries like medicine and law that are struggling with disorders like these. You will live alongside your peers, exploring the issues that led to the disorders and working on healthy ways to break the addiction cycle and embrace a life of long-lasting recovery. To learn more about our programs designed exclusively for professionals, contact the Center for Professional Recovery today at 866.298.0056.

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