We need to make no bones about the fact that gambling can become addictive, as it alters the brain chemistry and creates the kind of pleasure, pain and despair found in any other addiction, which can lead to debt, divorce and even premature death through suicide.
Increase in addiction to gambling
More and more evidence is demonstrating that with the expansion of the gambling industry, particularly online services, there is significant increase in gambling addiction.
In the US for example, it has been shown that following a ten year programme of expansion in the 1990’s, there was a 50% increase in the number of people who developed a chronic problem with gambling. There seems to be no clear and coherent strategy aimed at supporting and treating those people affected by this likely increase in Europe.
In the next five years there is a high probability we will see a new breed of gambling addict, consisting of men, women and young people who do not visit casinos or amusement arcades, but are happy to place a bet at work, home and school on their computers or mobile phones slipping off to check the results during coffee and ad breaks. Gambling addiction has the cunning knack of taking progressive control over a person’s life, because unlike other addictions, such as alcohol and drugs, there are rarely outward signs of the addiction, until the person has reached a complete crisis.
Who in the world is most exposed to gambling addiction?
We know that the likelihood of a person becoming addicted increases or decreases depending on the availability of their “drug of choice”. Adults who live within a 50 mile radius of a casino have double the probability of developing a problem with gambling, and if you compare this with people who have access to the internet at work, home, school and in the community, we can predict that the harm caused as a result of gambling addiction is set to dramatically increase in worldwide. With internet gambling, access increases dramatically and so will the problems associated with it.
Online casinos and gambling games websites provide insufficient protection to their users and because they successfully aim for maximum participation and profit, they entice and then gently reward people who gamble in this way. A fundamental concern is the fact that there is a disproportionate investment by the gambling industry into researching and treating gambling addiction. In addition, employers are failing to identify and support treatment programmes for their staff that have gambling problems.
How to stop an online gambling addiction?
Any move to reduce the accessibility of internet gambling, creating some responsible and necessary barriers has to be a move in the right direction. However, it falls desperately short of a range of necessary intervention such as education, support, supply reduction, harm reduction and treatment.
When gambling on-line using credit cards, it is easier for people to justify their behaviours as the perceived damage is reduced to the ‘virtual’ nature of their activity. While limiting access won’t entirely solve the problem, it does create one more barrier so people will have to think before they spend money they may not have. With consumer debt rising to new levels, giving people an easy outlet to spend money is not a good idea for our country.
It is not about spoiling the fun and pleasure that some people obtain from gambling. A simple hope is that sufficient resources are committed so that anyone who runs into trouble with their gambling is given the support and treatment that they require.
View our video on gambling and our treatment at The Kusnacht Practice – see more
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