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How to Treat Gambling Addiction

When someone is in the midst of a gambling addiction, he or she will exhibit some signs that make it seem as though there is a chemical dependency occurring. All the money a person makes will be spent on the addiction, and things like homes, vehicles, and possessions might even be lost in the pursuit of gambling. Just like chemical addictions to drugs like heroin, there are even emotional problems that develop, such as depression when someone can’t have their drug of choice, gambling.  Fortunately, there are many options available to a person who wishes to treat gambling addiction and get their life back in order.

In many ways, it is as hard to get a compulsive gambler to stop destructive habits as it is to get someone addicted to drugs to stop using. Encouraging addiction treatment is one way to get a person into a state of recovery. Unfortunately, this process is usually a little more complicated than just asking a simple question about rehabilitation and expecting an affirmative answer from the addicted individual.

Signs of a Gambling Problem

Sometimes referred to as “compulsive gambling,” addiction to gambling feels an intense need to gamble, and addicts often don’t have the willpower to fight against this need. It is not uncommon for an individual to be fully aware that an addiction exists and yet, have no control over when and how often he or she decides to gamble.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is a publication put together by health professionals regarding different diseases and disorders, suggests the following broad signs exist for individuals with a compulsive gambling problem:

  • Bailout
  • Escape
  • Loss of control
  • Lying
  • Illegal acts
  • Preoccupation
  • Risk to relationships
  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal

The National Institutes of Health offers a more concrete list regarding gambling addiction:

  • Obsessive thoughts about gambling
  • Lying associated with gambling behaviors
  • Gambling instead of work and family time
  • Depression linked to not gambling
  • Going into debt due to gambling

It’s essential to realize also that adults aren’t the only individuals who may become compulsive gamblers. A study published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health suggested that youth in America were extremely likely to engage in gambling behaviors. At least 17 percent of youth questioned in the survey indicated that they had gambled dozens of times in the year previous.

Choosing a Facility to Treat Gambling Addiction

Different philosophies exist regarding the methods used to treat addictions, but standard treatment methods that might be seen during recovery from alcoholism or an addiction to cocaine are remarkably similar to the processes used for gambling addiction treatment. Standard treatment elements such as group therapy and one-on-one therapy sessions are vital for creating structure in a person’s life.

In choosing a facility in which to recover from gambling addiction, it’s important to ensure that there is a recovery program in place specifically designed to deal with gambling addiction. A general program that doesn’t focus on the particulars of an addiction won’t be as effective. In speaking with different treatment facilities, it’s a good idea to ask about the experience the counselors have in treating gambling addiction.

Success in Treatment Programs

As with other addictions, someone who is addicted to gambling will not be able to conquer his or her demons without a full emotional commitment to the process. Although the symptoms of withdrawal might not be as physically painful as they would be if a person were addicted to heroin or methamphetamines, the compulsion and emotional need to gamble is an incredibly difficult need to deny.

Differences in Treatment for Substance Abuse vs. Gambling

When a person is addicted to heroin, a treatment facility can test that person’s blood for evidence of recent drug use. A gambler will have no signs visible in his bloodstream that suggest the time has been spent recently at the poker table. The signs of gambling addiction and withdrawal are much more subtle, and treatment specialists must be able to interact closely with someone in gambling addiction recovery.

Standard Treatment Components for Gambling Recovery

Although the types of programs designed by various treatment facilities might vary regarding the treatment for gambling addiction, common elements of gambling addiction treatment include:

  • Standard psychotherapy (counseling)
  • Group therapy within the treatment facility
  • Medication (not used in all instances)
  • Follow-up counseling and therapy
  • Group therapy after treatment

Recovery and Legal Drug Use

When in recovery from a gambling addiction, there are no drugs specifically designed to lessen the impact of stopping an addiction. Heroin addicts can take methadone to ease off their addiction, but gambling addicts must often quit their addiction “cold turkey,” which is incredibly difficult to do. Gambling, whether a person wins or loses, offers a mental “rush” that helps feed the addiction.

Some research in the past few years has been accomplished regarding gambling treatment and drugs that might assist the process, but nothing concrete regarding medications, like antidepressants, has been confirmed to work in all cases. Some research has even been undertaken with the same sort of drugs that might be used for opiate addiction since some researchers have felt blocking receptors in the brain might reduce a person’s propensity to gamble.

Families with Addicted Members

An individual will often be convinced by family members to treat gambling addiction, but family members must also make sure to engage in protective measures to ensure that the family’s finances and livelihoods are safe from a person’s gambling addiction. Although it ‘s hard to remove the trust someone might have a spouse, parent, or child, it’s necessary that financial assets are out of reach of the addicted person.

Families must also be exceptionally careful when asking their loved one to enter into a treatment facility or attempt recovery from a gambling addiction. Because the addiction isn’t one that includes needles and illegal drugs, beating a gambling addiction requires acceptance by the addicted that a problem does indeed exist.

Modern Gambling Problems

Heading to Las Vegas and blowing the mortgage payment, or meeting a bookie somewhere in a dark bar are still fairly common as far as destructive habits and gambling are concerned, but today’s gamblers also have the internet taunting them with promises of games and winnings. Even smartphones offer the chance to gamble. It’s almost impossible to stop the use of a phone and remain disconnected from the internet, so today’s gamblers do have particularly strong triggers in reach.

A gambling addiction has the potential to be incredibly destructive to a person’s life, and just because there aren’t illegal drugs involved doesn’t necessarily mean that the addiction is not a dangerous one. It is necessary that anyone who needs to treat gambling addiction seeks treatment with the support of family and friends, and with the help of mental health professionals.