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The Hidden Nature of Gambling Addiction

Gambling is considered an invisible addiction. There are no smells or track marks that are easily identifiable. There are no blood tests, urine screens or hair follicles to detect gambling disorders.  Gambling Disorder is officially classified by the American Psychiatric Association as an addiction, though gambling problems can easily be camouflaged as ordinary and unremarkable behavior.  Often, family and friends have no idea there is a problem until the very end.  The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey announces that September is National Recovery Month promoted by SAMHSA to increase awareness on mental health and substance use disorder.  It is also important to recognize the impact and connection that problem and disordered gambling can play when dealing with co-occurring issues.

Problem gambling is a public health issue. It affects relationships, families, businesses and communities.  It is estimated that 8-10 people are directly impacted by just one individual’s gambling problem while dozen’s more are indirectly impacted.  Recently, a major Tri-State radio personality was brought up on Federal charges of fraud, in part, to cover massive gambling debts.  The disease of addiction is powerful, but the inner dis”ease” is also why one may seek gambling, drugs, or alcohol as an escape or “solution” to a deeper, unresolved issue. For gambling addiction, there are often few warning signs while the friends, family members, and loved ones are left to pick up the pieces.  If the person in recovery does not take care of one dis “ease”, they will reach out for some other means of quieting the inner disturbances.  At the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, we take a holistic approach to recovery.  We speak out in support of those not only with gambling problems but also with substance use disorders and address public health concerns as well.  It is reported that up to 70% of gamblers also are struggling with problems with alcohol.  Gambling disorders create health issues (physical and emotional); increased risk of suicide; increased domestic violence; financial losses and bankruptcies; and workplace issues.  Gambling disorders are too devastating to individuals, families, and society to allow them to go unnoticed and unattended any longer. We all need to have the conversation to bring attention to this deadly and often unrecognized addiction. In addition to the co-occurring factor of gambling and substance use, many individuals meet criteria for mental health issues as well.  60% of disordered gamblers may also meet criteria for depression, mood disorders and schizophrenia.

It is extremely important that we address all issues when treating an individual.  We call upon all treatment providers, the community and state and local leaders to recognize that addictions and mental health issues shouldn’t be compartmentalized but examined holistically to treat the dis”ease” the person is struggling with.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call 800-GAMBLER, send a text to ‘800GAMBLER’, or visit us on the web at www.800gambler.org.  Support. Treatment. Hope are available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.  Lastly, if you have any questions about the Council, you can contact Neva Pryor at 609-588-5515 or via email at neva@800gambler.org.  Your recovery is our goal!