When gambling becomes a problem

Is buying a lottery ticket every week gambling? Lottery tickets are gambling. What makes it a problem is when you aren’t winning so you spend more and more money trying to win back what you’ve lost. It’s a problem when you don’t have money to pay the rent or house payment, the utility bills and other obligations, buy groceries and other things you and your family need. It’s a problem when all you can think about is gambling and nothing – and no one – else and it consumers your life.

The common signs of gambling addiction include:

— Often borrow money for gambling.

— Gamble to forget how bored, lonely and in pain you are.

— Lie about gambling to people who care about you.

— Try to win back the money that was lost.

— Irritable about gambling.

— Missing for long periods of time without explanation.

Problem gambling occurs from adolescence to senior. It is “popular and prevalent” among adolescents, advises the National Institute of Health. A difference between adolescents and adults with gambling problems is that adolescents have less access to money and opportunity. But as Internet gambling grows, they have greater access and can lose more money much faster.

Studies show, though, that for youth it isn’t about the money. It’s about socializing and escaping from the things that cause them anxiety and stress. Concerns for adolescent problem gambling include increased use of alcohol, abuse and dependence. Girls who gamble are more likely to become depressed than boys, but boys are more likely to gamble heavily and have gambling problems. It’s difficult to prevent or treat problem gambling because parents don’t catch the subtle signs.

Risk factors for adolescents to develop gambling addiction include:

— Have parents with gambling problems.

— Earlier age of first gambling activity.

— Impulsivity.

— Have areas of poor function (medial, psychiatric, substance abuse disorders and family/social problems.

At the other end of the life spectrum, seniors are believed to be at higher risk of problem gambling.The95percent.org website, a state program, advises that casinos offer free transport and free or discounted meals as well as gifts and prizes to get seniors to their sites. Seniors use gambling to escape the problems of the Golden Years: health concerns, loneliness and sadness. They may have financial problems but not the financial resources to pay. They also may have some form of cognitive impairment that prevents them making sound decisions. Slot machines are the most popular form of casino gambling for seniors.

Many seniors don’t grasp the meaning of addiction, don’t know where to get help – or that help is available. In 2009 Ohio legalized casino development and attached a 2 percent tax on gross casino revenues which were to be used for treatment of problem gambling, substance abuse and relevant research. In 2013, $1.95 million of the tax generated revenue was used to establish a gambling help line, research and evaluations, public awareness, counselor trainings and certifications, treatment and prevention services.

March is “Problem Gambling Awareness Month. When you are going to be gambling, gamble responsibly. First pay your bills. Know the risks. Set limits for how much you will bet. If you get in over your head, get help early before the problem becomes too huge.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org.

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