Gambling Addiction and Drug Addiction: Are They Connected?

Gambling is quite common in the United States. As much as 86% of Americans admit to gambling at least one time in their lives. While gambling might seem to be fairly harmless to most people, it can reach the point of becoming an addiction, and this can be a life-altering situation. Gambling addictions are often referred to as compulsive gambling, gambling disorder or pathological gambling, and research shows that 1% of the people in the United States are battling a gambling addiction, according to theNational Center for Responsible Gaming.

A gambling addiction can drastically affect your life in so many different ways. It can lead to financial difficulties, problems in your relationships, and issues in other areas of your life, as well. It's even worse when you combine a gambling addiction with other types of addictions, such as drug addiction. Having a drug addiction and a gambling addiction at the same time is actually much more common than you might think it is. These types of addictions often go hand in hand, and if you're someone who suffers from both, it's important to get the right kind of help.

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Gambling and Addiction

Gambling and Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis treatment offers those with co-occurring disorders the opportunity to recover from them in a way that’s different and much more beneficial than what most people have experienced before. Whether your gambling addiction has been diagnosed, or you suspect that you do have a gambling addiction, if you’re also addicted to drugs, you can get help. Although, it might benefit you to learn as much as you can about your possible gambling addiction first.

What is Gambling?

What is a Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction is often a problem that people keep to themselves. The availability of online gambling methods has made this increasingly possible, and there are many “closet” gamblers in the United States. Whether the activity takes place online, or it takes place elsewhere in a more traditional gambling setting, the impact that it can have on someone’s life cannot be ignored.

It’s important to understand the difference between someone who just enjoys gambling and someone who has an actual gambling addiction. The two are really very different.

Someone who likes to gamble might purchase a lottery ticket every now and then, or even every week. However, they don’t feel compelled to do so. For someone who has a gambling addiction, the urge to gamble is completely uncontrollable, and they are not able to stop their behaviors, even if they want to. The evidence of this is that these individuals will gamble in spite of any negative consequences that come their way. For example, they may get negative feedback from friends, they may encounter strife at home, have legal or financial problems. Even in light of these difficulties and even when there are serious consequences for their actions, they will continue to gamble.

Gambling Addiction - How is Starts

What are Some Examples of a Gambling Addiction and What Causes it?

There are a lot of different ways to gamble today, and because of the Internet, there are a lot more now than there were even just a few years ago.

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Some examples of gambling include:

  • Gambling through a variety of online gaming sites
  • Frequently purchasing lottery tickets
  • Frequently visiting casinos
  • Playing slot machines
  • Betting on sports games

Quite often, gambling addiction begins with behaviors that seem relatively benign. In this way, it is a lot like other types of addictions. People become addicted to the adrenaline response that they experience while they’re gaming. Researchers also believe that those who have gambling addictions may have a part of the brain that is overactive. According to Healthline, this area is called the insula, and when it is overactive, it can cause problems with thinking. For those who have a gambling addiction, it can cause them to see patterns in random structures, and it can lead to continue gambling, even after losing.

Just like other forms of addictions, the more it is “fed,” the more it responds. Over time, the addiction grows worse and worse.

Effects of Gambling Addiction

What Effects Can a Gambling Addiction Have on Your Life?

Because most people are not aware of the addictive nature of gambling, once they become addicted to it, this can come as quite a shock to them. They’re usually not aware of how strong the compulsion to gamble can become, and once they realize it, it’s too late.

People who have a gambling addiction are often very confused to see the effects their addictions have on their lives. It’s not uncommon to hear phrases like:

  • How did this happen to me? I can’t believe I’m in so much trouble.
  • I can’t stop gambling now, or I’ll be admitting that I’m a loser.
  • There’s no way I’ll ever be able to pay back all the money I owe.
  • My luck will change if I have money to invest. I only need one more win.
  • I don’t know how to solve my problems, and I don’t know how I could be so stupid.
  • I never thought it would get this bad. I was just trying to have fun. 

Do any of these statements sound familiar to you? If so, your gambling addiction is affecting your family members just as much as it is affecting you. You’re probably experiencing: 

  • Significant money problems, including lost savings, property or belongings
  • Emotional problems and an extreme sense of isolation from the people you love
  • Mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression
  • Physical health problems, such as ulcers, digestive issues, headaches and poor sleep
  • A high risk of suicidal thoughts 

The effects of gambling addiction should not be ignored. Everyone suffers when one member of the family has a gambling addiction. Children often feel neglected and even abandoned, and it’s not uncommon for emotional and even physical abuse to become a part of the family dynamic.

Warning Signs of a Gambling Addiction

What are Some of the Warning Signs of a Gambling Addiction?

It’s possible that while you enjoy gambling, and you do it frequently, you’re really not sure that it’s become an addiction for you. It might help to know what some of the warning signs are of a gambling addiction. These can include:

  • Selling your possessions so that you have money to gamble
  • Trying to control your gambling, but finding that it’s really out of your control
  • Putting aside paying bills or taking care of expenses so that you can gamble instead
  • Gambling because it helps you feel better about your life
  • Feeling obsessive about any type of gambling
  • Bowing out on other commitments or responsibilities so that you can gamble
  • Lying to others about your gambling habit
  • Stealing money so that you can gamble
  • Finding that you’re taking bigger risks while you’re gambling
  • Feeling guilty after a gambling session 

If you have a true gambling addiction, you’re probably trying very hard to hide it from other people. However, this type of addiction is very hard to keep hidden. In fact, your addiction may start to show itself in other areas of your life, even if you don’t realize this is happening.

How Does a Gambling Addiction Affect the Family?

Gambling can have a tremendous impact on the family. It's a problem that people can keep hidden for a very long time. Meanwhile, they're draining the family's resources and causing a lot of strain in the home. Loved ones are frequently shocked when they find out how much money has been lost to gambling. It's very common for relationships to break up over it. Some families are able to work through it while others simply can't.

If you have a family member who is addicted to gambling, you may notice certain behaviors within yourself. Keep in mind that all of these are completely normal. According to the California Council on Problem Gambling:

  • You may feel withdrawn or isolated
  • You may try to make them feel guilty or ashamed of what they've done
  • You may try to control them
  • You may blame them for causing so many problems
  • You may feel the need to keep everyone else in the home happy
  • You may feel the need to be perfect because of this terrible situation

It can be easy to begin enabling the gambling even when you don't mean to. This is something you want to watch out for. Anything that makes it easier for your loved one to gamble is a problem.

How are Gambling Addiction and Drug Addiction Related to Each Other?

How are Gambling Addiction and Drug Addiction Related to Each Other?

It’s not surprising at all that so many people who have a gambling addiction also struggle with drug addiction at the same time. The two are very closely linked to each other, and there are a number of reasons for this.

First of all, because researchers believe that there may be a chemical imbalance at play when it comes to gambling addictions, people will often to turn to drugs as a way to change that imbalance. Certain drugs and even alcohol can increase serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, which can give addicts a feeling of temporary relief from how they feel. Also, people who have gambling addictions usually feel empty inside; especially when the adrenaline high from gambling starts to wear off. They may begin to get sad, or guilt might set in for them. These are both typical responses for someone who has a gambling addiction. Using drugs is a way to self-medicate these feelings away, even if it’s only for a short period of time. As those feelings of sadness become more frequent, using drugs tends to provide solace and comfort, and before long, a secondary addiction to the drugs develops. As time passes, the two addictions feed into each other, and even fuel each other in an ongoing addiction cycle. This is why it’s so important to get help for both addictions at the same time, through dual diagnosis treatment.

Statistically, dual diagnosis treatment has shown to be much more effective than treating gambling addiction and drug addiction as separate conditions. The two are very much related to each other, and in most cases, recovering from drug addiction is not possible unless the underlying, root cause of the gambling addiction is also taken into consideration. This is what dual diagnosis treatment does for those who have these types of co-occurring disorders.

There are many clinics that will treat one addiction or the other, but very few that will provide treatment for co-occurring disorders. This involves:

  • Making sure patients have a diagnosis that fits their symptoms
  • Creating a treatment plan that will address the needs of each, individual patient
  • Providing medication therapy and adjustments in light of the patient's drug addiction
  • Offering therapy that will address the core issue behind the addiction to promote recovery
  • Providing group therapy as a way to offer peer counseling, which has been proven to be effective in all kinds of addiction treatment
  • Ensuring that patients have continuing care for co-occurring disorders

Dual diagnosis treatment has been a game-changer when it comes to addiction recovery. So many people suffer from more than just addiction, and it doesn't help them to only address their addictions.

Unfortunately, the answer to this is no. There is no cure for compulsive gambling. This is because doctors have deemed it to be a disease, much like heart disease or kidney disease. It needs to be treated, and it is possible for a gambler to move into a state of recovery. This means not participating in the active addiction any longer.

Sometimes people think that not being to quit gambling is due to a lack of willpower. Dr. Timothy Fong, co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program says otherwise. He states, “What one person calls a lack of willpower, I call a disease - a sign that the brain is not working properly. There are brain changes that explain why people can't stop. We're trying to find which parts of the brain are affected. Therapy and medications can help restore normalcy to the brain and improve one's ability to control these urges.”

Keep in mind that just because you have a gambling addiction, you're not destined to remain in it. It will remain, but you can move forward and change the way you live your life.

The temptation to try and beat your addiction on your own is probably quite strong. It might not seem as severe to you as an alcohol or drug addiction would. However, you need to know that it can be just as problematic and devastating to your life.

Sometimes people want to attempt to quit gambling on their own first, without professional treatment. They tell themselves that if they fail, they'll seek out help at that time. More often than not, they end up suffering from a relapse. This is for a number of different reasons, including:

  • They don't have any support. Even with loving families, there has been a lot of pain inflicted because of the addiction. This can cause a lot of strain and make recovery difficult.
  • They are still suffering from other type of addiction. Drug addiction or alcoholism can make it really hard for someone to stop gambling.
  • They don't know how to cope without the addiction. Treatment teaches you what to do instead of gambling.
  • They don't know the root cause of the problem. This is why rehab is so important.
  • They need help to deal with the disease component of the addiction.

The best way to overcome a gambling addiction is to get professional help. Otherwise a relapse is to be expected.

Dual Diagnosis and Gambling Addiction

Choosing Northpoint Recovery for Dual Diagnosis Treatment

When you have a gambling addiction, it can slowly dismantle your life. Your relationships are negatively affected, your income is negatively affected, and unless you get the help you need, you can find yourself suffering drastically because of this harmful addiction. When you combine gambling addiction with drug addiction, the situation becomes even direr, and it's important for you to get help as soon as possible.

Perhaps you've thought about getting help for your addictions, but you did not know that it was possible to get help for both of them at the same time. Here at Northpoint Recovery, we want you to know that it is possible. Our dual diagnosis treatment program can offer you the kind of help you need to overcome your addictions to gambling and drugs. It's not surprising that you are battling both of these addictions, and we want you to know that this is not a fight you have to engage in on your own.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help treat your gambling and drug addictions, or if you're ready to get started with dual diagnosis treatment right away, please contact us.

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Gambling Addiction and Drug Addiction