Gambling addiction is becoming a widespread problem resulting in the devastation of families and increased crime and suicide rates
Normally when we think of addiction, we automatically think of the alcoholic, drug user, or perhaps even the chronic over eater but people who have a gambling addiction can destroy their own lives and the lives around them just as much as those who are addicted to substances. There have always been people with a propensity to become addicted to gambling. However, for many years there simply wasn't the opportunity of most people in most communities to indulge in gambling on a regular or semi regular basis. Now with most states having legalized gambling in some form or another, and the internet providing still other gambling options the problem is growing by leaps and bounds.
Gamblers like those suffering from other addictions start out using gambling as a means of having an enjoyable time. However, they reach a point when the thrill of gambling takes over their lives and they think of little else than getting the quick fix that gambling gives them. It is estimated that some 15 Million American's have some kind of gambling problem.
Who is Most Likely to Develop a Gambling Addiction?
Ironically, it is the people who can least afford to gamble who are the most likely to develop some kind of gambling addiction. They usually begin gambling by seeing the chance to win “big” as a way out of a current financial situation spending a few dollars on a lottery ticket or a trip to the casino. Once addicted however, they may rationalize that their wins are helping them economically, or that they have to make up for money they lost but in reality it is the thrill of gambling that keeps them coming back.
Eighteen to twenty four years old show the highest rates of gambling addictions but, anyone at any age can become addicted.
How Gambling Addictions Affect Families
Like any other addiction gambling does not simply affect the life of the gambler but has an adverse affect on the entire family. As the addiction progresses, the urge to gamble becomes more important than the persons relationship with their spouse or children. The gambler will begin to lie to hide how often they are gambling and will often skip work or not show up for important family events. When they are with their families they are often emotionally absent as their minds are on how to get more money to support their habit.
Aside from the emotional turmoil this addiction causes the financial turmoil can be devastating. Gamblers have been known to sell the family car, heirlooms, and even take bill and food money to support their habit. They borrow money from whoever and wherever they can, and they are even willing to commit crimes such as embezzlement and theft to get money to keep their addiction growing. 65% of all pathological gamblers commit crimes in order to support their gambling.
Most devastating of all is that fact that a person addicted to gambling is 20 times more likely to commit suicide than people who do not have this addiction. Leaving families, not only destitute but angry and guilt ridden because they could not help the person who suffered the addiction.
Getting Help for the Addiction
Like with any addiction, the gambling addict has to want to seek help before they have a chance of recovery. In the case of gambling, there are fewer places where help Is available. Gamblers can attend AA and substance abuse meeting, but few rural areas and small towns have programs designed primarily to help gamblers.
Just like with other addictions, there are those who do not understand the addiction and prefer to think the person could simply stop if they wanted too. But, in order for a person addicted to gambling to successfully recover he needs to surround himself with people who understand the nature of addiction and can offer support and encouragement without worry that talking about his addiction will cause more hurt than it already has.
Whether or not the addicted gambler is willing to get help, it is important that the families of those addicted seek some kind of help and counseling to help them better understand the nature of the addiction and ways they can minimize the effect that the addition has on their own lives.
There are no easy or fast answers for any addiction, the best any of us can do is encourage those who are addicted to seek help, and to offer them support if and when they are willing to seek help.