Gambling and Substance Abuse

Gambling addiction disorder constitutes a significant public health concern in America today. 2.2 percent of American adults suffer from gambling addiction individually; this number does not represent others affected by the disorder, such as family members, co-workers, and loved ones.

Recently, a study by WalletHub rated each of the 50 states according to their problem gambling prevalence. Colorado ranked as number fifteen.

What constitutes problem gambling? How is it related to substance abuse disorder? What help is available if you or a loved one is struggling with gambling addiction in Colorado?

What is Gambling Addiction?

Problem gambling is similar to substance addiction in the way it affects the brain. There is a mass of circuits in the middle of the brain that is responsible for handling feelings of pleasure and the human ‘reward system’. The reward comes in the form of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that produces a sense of well-being, and even euphoria in excessive doses.

ambling and substance addictions both trigger the release of high doses of dopamine. In an effort to protect itself from the sudden rush, the brain will actually begin to shut down dopamine receptors, diminishing the reaction. This is called tolerance and is the reason why addicts need to consume larger doses of their drug in order to achieve the same effect. In problem gambling, this can manifest by someone taking higher and higher risks when gambling.

Symptoms of Compulsive Gambling

To determine whether or not you have a problem with gambling, ask yourself some basic questions and answer honestly:

  • Are you able to control your urge to gamble?
  • Do you neglect bills or other expenses to spend money gambling?
  • Do you lie about your gambling habits?
  • Have you avoided work or other commitments to gamble?
  • Are you taking bigger and bigger risks while gambling?
  • Do you feel guilty about your gambling habits?

If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, you may have a gambling addiction.

Consequences of Gambling Addiction

Gambling and substance abuse addiction do not just share similarities when it comes to the brain. The real-life consequences of both can be devastating, affecting many areas of your life. Untreated addictions can lead to:

  • Destroyed relationships with family and loved ones
  • Personal financial ruin
  • Loss of home, car, or other possessions
  • Loss of work/income

Substance abuse and gambling addiction can often go hand-in-hand; the rate of problem gambling among substance abusers is four to five times higher than in the general population.

Both of these addictions can also have co-occurring disorders. Co-occurrence is when an addiction is accompanied by a separate mental illness. Gambling could be accompanied by a number of co-occurring disorders, including:

Addictive behavior is often a coping mechanism in response to a painful or traumatic life situation, whether in the past or currently occurring. Any treatment pursued to deal with gambling addiction could be rendered ineffective by not addressing a co-occurring disorder.

Treatment Options

Effective treatment for gambling addiction requires an integrated approach to getting well that focuses on mental health as well as dealing with the addiction. If you are looking for a holistic, multi-discplinary approach toward addiction treatment in Colorado, consider Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. Located less than an hour from Denver, our scenic location serves as a peaceful retreat in which to pursue your journey to wellness. Click to learn about admissions or contact us to get started.