Helping those who would gamble away their lives
This week is National Problem Gambling Awareness Week. Its goal is to educate the general public about the warning signs of problem gambling as well as raise awareness of the help available locally and nationally.
Gambling addiction changes the structure of the brain in the same way as a substance addiction, yet the disease is not given the same attention or resources.
It's crucial that people know where to turn for information and help for compulsive gambling because the disease can be devastating to gamblers and their families, undermining their financial stability. The average amount of debt a male gambler accrues before seeking treatment is upward of $90,000.
Gambling is known as a silent addiction because there are no outward physical symptoms, as there are with substance abuse. The chemistry of the brain changes, but that change isn't visible.
Compulsive gamblers come in two types: action gamblers and escape gamblers. Action gamblers look for an adrenaline rush. These gamblers typically play table games such as poker and blackjack, and bet on horse races. Action gamblers are normally outgoing men and make up the majority of gamblers. Escape gamblers typically play slot machines, online games, bingo, video poker and the lottery. Most women gamblers fall into this category. The following are some of the signs that indicate compulsive gambling:
n Increasing the frequency and the amount of money gambled.
n Spending an excessive amount of time gambling at the expense of personal or family time.
n Being preoccupied with gambling or with obtaining money with which to gamble.
n Feeling a sense of euphoria, an aroused sense of action or a high from gambling.
n Continuing to gamble despite negative consequences such as large losses, or work or family problems caused by gambling.
n "Chasing," or the urgent need to keep gambling, often with larger bets, or the taking of greater risks in order to make up for a loss or series of losses.
n Borrowing money to gamble, taking out secret loans or maximizing credit cards.
n Frequent mood swings, which are higher when winning, lower when losing.
n Gambling for longer periods of time with more money than originally planned.
n Secretive behavior or lying to cover up the extent of gambling.
For more information about compulsive gambling and ways to get help, visit safestakes.org. Contact Amy Sechrist, Compass Mark's certified prevention specialist, for information and referrals to treatment and support groups for this serious problem.
Compass Mark, 630 Janet Ave., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the incidence, prevalence and consequences of the abuse of and addiction to alcohol and other drugs. For more information, call Emily Mace, communications coordinator, at 299-2831 or visit compassmark.org.