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The warning signs of gambling addiction - Lifestyles - Brief Article

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Addictions & Substance Use

Jet,  July 1, 2002  

We all take a chance every once in a while. From dropping a few coins in a slot machine during an excursion to a riverboat gambling casino to playing digits in the lottery skimmed from the random number of floors picked by people while riding an elevator to work. And if you win, great!

Who can deny the thrill of winning more than a few bucks from off-track betting, scratch lottery tickets or a game of chance? It's an exhilaration that once felt is hard to dismiss. But what happens when the fun of gambling becomes an addiction?

Experts say we are gambling now more than ever, including the increasing prevalence of gambling on the Internet, according to a recent study by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission and the American Psychological Association (APA).

The good news is that most Americans are social gamblers who can participate in gambling activities without becoming addicted, research shows. But with more and more states opening casinos and lotteries offering multimillion-dollar jackpots, Americans are beginning to lose their self-control, experts say.

When a person becomes caught in the addiction of gambling, he or she can fall into one or two categories: the pathological/compulsive gambler or the problem gambler. Pathological or compulsive gamblers can't resist the temptation to gamble; they run up large debts, and they damage relationships with family and friends, experts say. A problem gambler is a person who gambles more than he or she can afford. He or she may lie about gambling or may gamble longer than planned, experts explain.

Pathological or compulsive gambling is chronic and progressive, and affects over 75 million people, according to the commission.

In a report published by the APA that centered on 389 visitors to dental and medical clinics, over 8 percent of the participants reported gambling on the Internet. The study found that a majority of those with Internet gambling experience had the most serious levels of gambling behaviors, known as Level 2 (problematic) and Level 3 (pathological) gambling. Only 22 percent of the participants without any Internet gambling experience were Level 2 or 3 gamblers, compared with 74 percent of participants with Internet gambling experience who were classified as Level 2 or 3 gamblers.

Internet gamblers were also more likely to be unmarried and younger than those who never used the Internet for gambling. They also tended to have lower education and income levels than non-Internet gamblers, which is surprising, according to the researchers, since access to the Internet is traditionally associated with people who have higher income and education levels.

Problem, pathological and Internet gamblers are much more likely than low-risk gamblers to gamble for the excitement, or to have been troubled by mental or emotional problems including manic symptoms, and depressive episodes.

Gamblers Anonymous offers the following 20 questions to anyone who feels he or she may have a gambling problem and wants to stop gambling. Gamblers Anonymous officials say most compulsive gamblers will answer yes to at least seven of these questions.

Many gamblers seek help through Gamblers Anonymous, people who gather together throughout the nation to share their experiences so that they can overcome their common problem and help others to recover as well.

If you or someone you love has a gambling problem, contact Gamblers Anonymous (GA). There are no dues or fees; GA chapters are in most cities and can be reached by calling (213) 386-8789 or online at: www.gamblersanonymous.org.

1. Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?

2. Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?

3. Did gambling affect your reputation?

4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?

5. Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?

6. Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?

7. After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible to win back your losses?

8. After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?

9. Did you often gamble until your last dollar is gone?

10. Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?

11. Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?

12. Were you reluctant to use "gambling money" for normal expenditures?

13. Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?

14. Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?

15. Have you ever gambled to escape worry or trouble?

16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?

17. Did gambling cause you to have difficulty sleeping?

18. Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?

19. Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?

20. Have you ever considered self-destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?

COPYRIGHT 2002 Johnson Publishing Co.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group

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