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Gambling Addiction

Compulsive gambling, pathological gambling, gambling disorder, or gambling addiction is a repetitive self-defeating behavior that is associated with similar if not the same psychosocial and physical consequences as those related to narcotic stimulant drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine.

For example, gambling cocaine and meth addictions are:

  1. associated with suicide and death
  2. used to combat boredom
  3. used to combat unhappiness
  4. associated with a sharp increase in dopamine within the brain’s pleasure center while engaging
  5. associated with a sharp drop in dopamine within the brain’s pleasure during withdrawal
  6. associated with down-regulation of dopamine receptors or “tolerance” which means increasingly more drug or betting is required over time in order to chase or approach previous high levels of elation
  7. associated with the same neuropsychiatric reward pathways in the brain
  8. willing to risk their physical health, emotional health and life in hope of getting an instant feeling of elation and well being
  9. characterized by the insanity of feeling very deep levels of depression and despair upon withdrawal, along with three basic deja vu choices:
  10. commit suicide or make it look like an accident
  11. get the money to engage again
  12. get help another time

Whether it’s the fragrance of perfectly baked apple pie or pizza in the oven, planning the next drug score or bet, addicts, even before engaging, immediately feel:

  • happiness
  • joy
  • Increased energy
  • Increased sociability
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Improved attention
  • Improved focus
  • More ambition
  • Easier breathing
  • Suppressed appetite

Signs of compulsive gambling include:

  1. Gambling to alleviate guilt, anxiety or depression
  2. Gambling to forget about worries
  3. Preoccupied with gambling
  4. Perpetually planning how to gather money
  5. Chasing bets from previous losses
  6. Betting with larger amounts for the same thrill
  7. Hidden behavior
  8. Lying to family and friends regarding gambling
  9. Attempts to cut back or stop unsuccessfully
  10. Restless and irritable when not gambling or planning
  11. Deplete savings
  12. Asking for loans
  13. Mounting debt
  14. Unpaid bills including mortgage or rent
  15. Theft to cover bets
  16. Fraud to cover bets
  17. Gambling affects learning relationships & work

Like substances abusers, compulsive gamblers typically stop gambling for a period of time to “prove” to themselves and others that they can stop whenever they wish. This is reminiscent of Mark Twain who said,

“Stopping smoking is the easiest thing I have every done,

I’ve done it thousands of times.”

Denial is just as present in compulsive gambling as it is in other addictions.

Also, concerned family members and friends may need to sit the pathological gambler down and make him a treatment-offer he can’t refuse, as is the case with interventions for drug and alcohol dependent people.

Otherwise, the compulsive gambler will continue to believe that he can stop any time he wishes and/or “after tonight I’ll be on Easy Street!”

There are many programs for compulsive gamblers and if money is a problem, as it almost always is, Gamblers Anonymous (GA) and Gam-Anon can get you on a roll towards recovery.

If your loved-one won’t go for help, go to Gam-Anon (Gambler’s Anonymous) and they’ll probably teach you how to cope and persuade your loved-one into getting help.

If you recognize your own behavior from the list of signs and symptoms for compulsive gambling, seek professional help.

How Do You Become a Compulsive Gambler?

Like substance abuse disorders, behavioral addictions such as compulsive gambling are believed to be the result of a combination of personality, genetic and environmental factors, and most commonly occurs in males.

Personality Factors (33% increased risk)

  • Habitually looks towards the environment for happiness
  • Easily distracted towards short-cuts and easier ways, materialistic, greedy, wanting, thankless
  • Focuses excessively on what he does not have instead of being grateful for what he has
  • Obsessive worry or fear in place of acceptance and rationally systematic problem solving

Genetic Factors (33% increased risk)

  • Inheriting addiction
  • Inheriting attention deficit, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, bipolar disorder
  • Inheriting depression
  • Inheriting anxiety

Environmental Factors (33% increased risk)

  • Environment focuses on external reward (pizza after winning) in place of focusing on the internal reward (discussing the highlights) or a combination of the 2, emphasizing the latter
  • Doing too many things at once; multitasking is not only encouraged, it’s the rule; chaotic
  • Materialistic, greedy, wanting and thankless environment
  • Environment focuses on emotional blame-game responses to problems rather than rational solution oriented analyses

Certain personality types also lend themselves to compulsive gambling:

  • Very competitive
  • Workaholic
  • Impulsive, often acts before thinking
  • Restless
  • Easily bored

Hazards of compulsive gambling include:

  1. Relationship problems
  2. Foreclosure
  3. Bankruptcy
  4. Legal problems
  5. Imprisonment
  6. Substandard work performance
  7. Job loss
  8. Chronic stress induced poor general health
  9. Suicidal thoughts
  10. Suicide attempts
  11. Suicide


Teens and newly retired gambling-novices can learn where the line is drawn between gambling and pathological gambling via articles such as this and attending GA and Gam-Anon meetings, or getting a comprehensive addictions evaluation.

Common companion addictions include:

  1. Oxidized food addiction
  2. Caffeine dependence
  3. Nicotine dependence
  4. Oxidized food addiction
  5. Alcohol abuse

Treatment for compulsive gambling usually includes recovery-sensitive:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy reduces gambling cravings, urges and appetite by reducing depression, moodiness and attention deficit
  • Family therapy
  • Non-narcotic antidepressant, mood stabilizing and focus-enhancing medicines may be prescribed where appropriate because the target symptom of depression, moodiness and distracted forms the basis to gambling cravings, urges and appetite
  • Feeling sad leads to feel better plans of betting, leads to feel much better betting
  • Feeling moody leads to feel better plans of betting, leads to feel much better betting
  • Feeling confused leads to feel better plans of betting, leads to feel much better betting
  • Self-help groups, such as GA and Gam-Anon, are the backbone of compulsive gambling aftercare treatment

Reach Out

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse problem, please reach out to our addiction specialists for guidance and support, at (877)-RECOVERY or (877)-732-6837. Our addiction specialists make themselves available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.

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