The meteoric rise of gambling over the last decade has created greater attention on the problems of gambling addiction and problem gambling. Problem gambling can be distinguished by regular forms of gambling by a noticeable negative influence on different aspects of life, including social relationships, employment, and physical well being. Behaviors associated with problem gambling often times include gambling more or longer than expected, loss of sleep, depression, gambling to pay off debts, and committing acts that break the law in order to fulfill gambling obligations. This is not an all-inclusive list and there are many other behaviors that fall under problem gambling and gambling addiction but it provides a starting off point for anyone concerned about a friend or family member.
The reason why problem gambling has been on the rise over the last decade is the increase in gambling websites, with many offering free money for those who play a certain amount of hands, and the promotion of gambling as something socially acceptable on such programs as the World Series of Poker, which is broadcast on ESPN. As well, the rise in poker and other gaming machines in more readily accessible forms, including interactive television programs and portable machines in taverns, has allowed problem gamblers an easier outlet for their addiction.
The statistics on problem gambling and gambling addiction are a bit hard to pin down, but what we do know is quite disturbing, especially in regards to teens and young adults. According to most estimates, three percent of the adult population will experience problem gambling and fall into several of the behavioral indicators of gambling addiction mentioned above. At a time when there is concern about increased consumer debt, concerns about family values, and an overall concern about psychological welfare, having three percent of the adult population riddled with gambling addiction is disturbing. As well, these statistics may be conservative considering the rapid increase in venues for gambling.
However disturbing the trend in adults may be, it is not as disturbing as the statistics on teen and young adult gambling addiction. According to statistics from the National Council on Problem Gambling, nearly two-thirds of teens gamble in some form, with 44% of teens non-problem gamblers. However, 15% of teens are at-risk gamblers, meaning that they are walking the thin line between addiction and normal behavior, and 8% are pathological, or problem, gamblers. As well, nearly 2% of teens contemplate suicide due to a combination of pathological gambling and other behavioral problems. These statistics do not bode well for the future of mental or financial health, as such behaviors continue on throughout life. The one silver lining on problem gambling is that it is two to three times more addictive in teens than in adults, which may promise a brighter future for young adults.
There are certainly a number of places that people can seek help for gambling addiction. Many communities have Gamblers’ Anonymous programs and state governments all over the country are beginning to address gambling on its own as a health and welfare issue. States like Minnesota and Wisconsin, which have a number of casinos and more generous laws on gambling, have added gambling addiction task forces which study behaviors attached to addiction and offer remedies. As well, gambling addiction and problem gambling can be dealt with by family and friends who offer interventions. In most cases, gambling addicts have no overview of how they are acting and an abrupt reality check from loved ones can start an addict on the road to recovery.