Home > The Complex Nature of Abused Substances and Getting Help for Addiction > Gambling and Substance Abuse
Gambling is a problem that affects people all over the world. It can ruin lives, break up relationships and cause a person to experience financial hardship if not devastation. For many people who struggle with a drug or alcohol abuse problem, gambling is another form of addiction that can contribute to their social and behavioral problems. Gambling and substance abuse often go hand in hand as the culture of addiction and the social settings where people can abuse alcohol or use drug use are often the same places that gambling occurs.
There are many different types of gambling that a person can become involved in such as betting on horse races or football games, using online game websites, going to casinos, playing electronic poker machines or betting on cards. Some people may begin to gamble casually as a social activity and are able to gamble without it affecting their personal life or causing significant financial problems. Others are drawn into the excitement of the game and will begin to gamble repetitively despite negative consequences.
Gambling is often compared to drug use due to the adrenalin rush associated with both. The thrill of betting money on a horse or greyhound, the excitement of the race and the elation when that person has won money is addictive. However, more often than not a person will not win money or will win a small amount of money that does not make up for the losses they have already experienced. Card players find the thrill of the game enticing and love to feel the power of the game, the chance of win or lose and the competitive nature of the game addictive. The intelligence associated with the card games is often used as an excuse for continuously being involved in poker or other card games.
Like with people who have a drug problem, chasing the euphoria is a significant part of why they become addicted. Trying to win back money that is lost through gambling is another reason someone will continue to gamble. The rush of the game is short lived and because of the way games are hedged, it is unlikely that the money will be able to won back without huge financial costs.
Gambling is a commonplace activity that is often associated with socializing, drinking and drug taking. Going to a casino will place a person in a building that is designed to encourage excessive gambling, drinking and even consumption of illicit drugs. Many casinos are open 24 hours a day and provide customers with comfortable surroundings, cheap food and drinks to encourage a person to stay within the walls. Physically, casinos are often designed to let minimal natural light in, have rows of poker machines or card tables that confuse a person and make it hard to find exits. These features encourage people to stay, gamble and forget about the outside world.
Individuals who suffer from alcoholism or alcohol abuse problems, a casino is place where they can drink to excess without being criticized, judged or discouraged. Functioning alcoholics often surround themselves with people or go to places that their alcoholism is easily hidden in the cultural norms. At horse races, excessive drinking is encouraged to celebrate wins or forget about losses.
Consuming drugs such as cocaine that boost peoples adrenalin and risk taking behaviors fit in well with gambling activities. When a person is under the influence of a drug like this, they will be more inclined to place large bets on horses, cards or in poker machines and not be upset by losing a race. This can lead to severe problems for the individual once the drugs wear off and reality sets in.
Ludomania is the condition known as problem gambling where a person will continue to gamble despite significant negative and harmful consequences associated with their gambling. Problem gambling is characterized by adverse consequences for the gambler, others or for the community that occur due to financial and time spent on gambling.
People who suffer from ludomania have frequent and intense thoughts about gambling and associated experiences. This goes beyond normal recollections of events to a total preoccupation with gambling. As with a drug addiction, individuals will experience tolerance and withdrawals to gambling and may need to bet larger amounts of money to experience the rush they get from gambling. Behavioral and social issues such as lying, stealing and an inability to control their gambling are other symptoms of ludomania. Treatment for this devastating condition is required to be able to stop the compulsive gambling and the related consequences.
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