Alcohol and Problem Gambling- 4 Ways This Combo Creates Chaos

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. What does alcohol abuse have to do with gambling addiction? Actually, quite a bit. When the two collide, the consequences can seriously damage the addicted person and his or her loved ones emotionally, physically, and financially. Check out these reasons alcohol abuse and gambling addiction are an especially destructive combination.

1. Substance abuse & gambling addiction are connected.
About 73% of people struggling with pathological gambling (the most serious form of the condition) have an alcohol use disorder, while up to 44% of all problem gamblers struggle with alcohol.  In addition, researchers found that those with problem gambling were more than twice as likely to exceed sensible drinking limits. One reason for the connection may be rooted in the brain; some of the same biological irregularities seen in alcohol-addicted people have also been identified in pathological gamblers. The biological connection may also explain why addictive behavior sometimes runs in families.

2. A recovering compulsive gambler can become cross addicted to alcohol and vice versa.
It’s estimated as many as 25% of addicted people will become addicted to an additional substance or behavior. This occurs because addiction alters how the brain perceives pleasure and reward. When a person starts to recover from one addiction, the brain may seek out another way to achieve the high it craves. Learn more in From Substance Abuse to Gambling- Cross Addiction FAQ Guide.

3. One unhealthy behavior can trigger relapse in the other.
Alcohol reduces the ability to make reasonable decisions, which can lead to a recovering gambler giving into urges to hit the casino, play online poker, or bet on sports. Likewise, gambling often occurs in environments that nurture alcohol use–in places like casinos and racetracks. A person recovering from alcohol abuse may find it harder to resist cravings while gambling.

4. Both conditions require professional treatment.
If a gambler is also addicted to or abusing alcohol, it’s critical to find a treatment provider skilled at coordinating treatment for each condition. Since addictive gambling behavior has some unique qualities, choose a therapist or counselor skilled in treating people with problem gambling.

Compass Mark offers addiction treatment resources and guidance for individuals, families, and health care professionals in Lancaster and Lebanon. Reach out for help—call our compassionate, trained team at 717-299-2831 or use the Get Help form.


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