Gambling Addiction

Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction is a compulsive need to bet and take risks for a possible gain. Gambling addicts often have a coexisting drug and/or alcohol addiction. Both illnesses must be treated for a full recovery.

If you have a compulsive need to gamble, you need help. If you use drugs and alcohol in combination with your gambling addiction you need specialized treatment. Call 866.812.8231 to get the information and help you need. Recovery Connection coordinators can answer your questions about treatment.

What is Gambling Addiction?

Addicted to Gambling

The definition of gambling is to "play games of chance for money" or "bet a sum of money" (Oxford English Dictionary). Gambling could be anything from buying a lottery ticket to dropping a quarter in a slot machine. 125 million Americans gamble at least once a year (1999 National Gambling Impact Study). For most, gambling is not a problem. The average person gambles:

  • For entertainment
  • To win money
  • For a challenge
  • For excitement

However, there is a big difference between recreational and compulsive gambling. When someone suffers from an addiction, the brain's reward system is affected. The risk-taking behavior associated with gambling, with the potential for a large reward, induces the release of several neurotransmitters and activates the parts of the brain that are associated with addiction. These neurotransmitters induce a pleasurable feeling in the gambler, just as drugs or alcohol induce a pleasant sensation in those who take them.

Ultimately, however, the cycle of addiction leads to despair and hopelessness. Unfortunately, for the gambler, this may mean the loss of financial resources, employment, legal difficulties, and even death by suicide or involvement in violent crime.

Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction

Neurotransmitters are altered, resulting in compulsive behavior. A compulsive gambler gambles to:

  • Feel better
  • Cope with emotions
  • Overcome loneliness
  • Feel more powerful
  • Live a fantasy
  • Hide from reality
  • Experience a euphoric feeling (caused by neurotransmitters being released)

Pathological gambling, or gambling addiction, is an impulse-control disorder, and a process addiction. People who are addicted to gambling are often competitive and struggle to control impulsive behaviors. Gambling addicts are also more likely to have other issues such as alcoholism, drug dependence, sexual addiction, or process addiction. Compulsive gambling creates financial, marital, legal, and/or work related problems. Everyone in the gambler's support network suffers. Addiction is a mental health issue that requires appropriate treatment.

For most people, gambling is a harmless activity that happens once in a while. They might place a bet without much thought. But for gambling addicts, it's an all-consuming need.

If you're unable to stop gambling or you feel like you have to bet on something, you might already be feeling the effects of a this addiction. Without gambling addiction treatment, you're at risk of:

  • Not having enough money to live on
  • Losing your job
  • Losing your family or a significant relationship
  • Alcoholism and/or drug abuse
  • Stealing or other criminal behavior
  • Legal difficulties
  • Suicidal thoughts and/or other negative feelings

Gambling Addiction Treatment

Much like other addictions, compulsive gambling requires addiction treatment. Many rehabs utilize a 12-step method. Gamblers' Anonymous, a 12-step support group just for gambling addicts, holds meetings throughout the country and is full of people who understand exactly what you're going through. Find a meeting near you.

Gambling Addiction Self-Test

Gambling addiction is an all-consuming need to gamble despite negative consequences. The following gambling addiction self-test can help determine if you or a loved one is battling a gambling addiction. If the answer is yes, treatment for gambling is available.

Answer yes or no to the following questions honestly:
  1. Have you ever missed school or work because of gambling?
  2. Have you ever felt guilty after gambling?
  3. Have you ever gambled to pay back debts or solve financial problems?
  4. After winning have you ever felt a strong urge to return and win more? After losing did you ever feel a strong urge to return and win back your losses?
  5. Have you ever borrowed money or sold anything to finance your gambling?
  6. Have you ever committed or considered committing an illegal act to finance gambling?
  7. Has gambling ever made you consider suicide?
  8. Have you ever gambled to escape arguments, trouble, boredom, or loneliness?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you or your loved one may have a gambling addiction.

Looking For Treatment?

Compulsive gamblers must gamble. If this sounds like you, or someone you know, find out what you can do to get your life under control. Call 866.812.8231 to speak with a trained coordinator 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential. Or, visit to learn more about gambling addiction.

24/7 all conversations are confidential.