Problem Gambling

By William Morrison

The National Council on Problem Gambling, an independent organization not funded by the gaming industry, reports the following statistics on gambling:1

  • 85% of U.S. adults have gambled at least once in their lifetimes (60% in any given year).
  • About 1% are pathological gamblers (clearly addicted). Problem gamblers account for another 2 to 3%.
  • Legal gambling is available in 48 states; Hawaii and Utah are the only exceptions.

There may be as many as 250,000 problem gamblers in the UK.

The anticipation and thrill of gambling creates a natural high that can become addictive. The internet has made gambling more accessible, allowing more and more people to do it from home. This is thought to be one of the reasons for the increase in the number of women gamblers.

There’s also a link between gambling and alcohol abuse. Many gambling addicts are also addicted to alcohol. Rates ofdepression and attempted suicide among gambling addicts are around double the national average. Gambling addicts are also more likely to go to prison as a result of criminal activity. This is almost entirely theft and fraud.

There’s evidence that gambling can be successfully treated in the same way as other addictions. Cognitive behavioural therapy usually has the best results.

Specialised addiction services that focus mainly on substance misuse often also treat gambling problems. They use the same techniques to treat gambling addictions that they use to treat substance misuse.

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