Average Problem Gambler’s Debt: $38,090 [Gambling in the News]

$38,090. That’s the average debt of a problem gambler, according to the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling.

The organization fielded 13,081 calls to its helpline in 2016, many from people expressing desperation over their situation or that of a loved one. In a Post-Crescent article, Rose Blozinski, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling, recalled one case where a man called because his sister had run up $100,000 in gambling-related debt and had tried to commit suicide.

Excessive gambling is not a money problem.

Debt is a symptom of problem gambling. A person can engage in unhealthy betting behaviors regardless of their financial status. Compulsive gambling is actually rooted in the brain. Numerous studies have identified differences between problem gamblers’ brains and those of non-gamblers. For example, one recent study found that gambling addiction activates the same brain regions as those stimulated by drug addiction.

The solution to gambling addiction is not to pay off the gambler’s debts.

Helping a gambler pay down debts doesn’t solve the problem. Rather it can enable a gambler to continue the behavior. The path to recovery lies in a comprehensive treatment plan that includes a combination of therapies, such as:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps the gambler “rewire” his or her thought processes;
  • Self-help groups, which provide a safe place for a problem gambler to find support from those in the same situation;
  • Stress reduction activities, which can help decrease cravings to bet;
  • Lifestyle changes, such as eliminating time spent in unhealthy situations, like visiting a casino with friends;
  • Financial counseling, which can provide smart money and debt management techniques to get back on track.
Learn More about Treating Problem Gambling

If you’re in the Lancaster or Lebanon area, visit our list of treatment providers with expertise in gambling addiction. You can also get in touch with our Compass Mark team for referrals, intervention information, and prevention resources. Call us at 717-299-2831 or use our online Get Help form.

 

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    Parkinson’s Meds Linked to Higher Risk of Problem Gambling [Research]

    Common drug treatments for Parkinson’s disease are linked to compulsive gambling and other conditions, according to a recent scientific review by a team from Loyola Medicine and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

    The review linked the class of drugs, which controls tremors and other symptoms, to a range of impulse-related disorders, including problem gambling, hypersexuality, compulsive eating, and compulsive shopping.

    While it’s possible to treat the impulse issues by switching, reducing, or stopping the suspected medications, patients are often reluctant to change Parkinson’s treatments because they fear their condition will worsen, according to the report. Stopping the drugs may also produce withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks in some patients.

    The review’s authors suggest that alternative strategies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, could help manage impulse disorders in patients. They also stressed the importance of the role of Parkinson’s patients’ family members. Along with caregivers, family members can help by reporting out-of-character behavior that suggests an impulse control disorder.

    Signs of Gambling Problems in Seniors
    • Acting evasively or lying about time or money spent gambling;
    • Inability to account for time spent gambling;
    • Uncharacteristic decline in personal care, which may include not taking necessary medications;
    • Increase in calls from bill collectors;
    • Engaging in frequent arguments about money or bills;
    • Cashing out life insurance policies, retirement funds, or other earmarked accounts;
    • Selling valuables or heirlooms.

    If you’re concerned about an older loved one’s gambling behavior, reach out for help now. Talk with the Compass Mark team for confidential guidance or referrals to resources in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA.

     

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      Brain Activity Linked to Problem Gambling [Research]

      Gambling addiction activates the same brain areas as cravings for alcohol and other drugs, according to recent research.  The study also revealed that problem gamblers showed a weaker connection between some areas of the brain.

      The gambling study, conducted by an international team of researchers and funded by the UK Medical Research Council, found that gambling triggers activity in two brain areas, the insula and nucleus accumbens, in those addicted to the behavior. These regions are linked to rewards, impulse control, and decision making. Previous research had connected those areas to cravings for alcohol and other drugs.

      In addition, the researchers discovered that problem gamblers showed a weaker connection between the nucleus accumbens and frontal lobe, which plays a role in decision making. Experts theorize that the weaker frontal lobe link makes it harder for a problem gambler to control impulses and easier to ignore the negative consequences of unhealthy gambling behavior.

      The findings suggest that gambling addiction could possibly be treated in the future by controlling activity in those brain areas affected by gambling.

      Gambling Resources for Health Care & Treatment Professionals

      Treatment for Problem Gambling in Lancaster, PA, Lebanon, PA, and the Surrounding Area
      Council on Compulsive Gambling in Pennsylvania
      National Council on Problem Gambling
      College Gambling Resources for Campus Health Professionals  

      If you’re in Lancaster or Lebanon, you can also count on the Compass Mark Referral Team to guide you to the resources you need to help patients and clients.

       

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        How to Keep Your Resolution to Reduce or Stop Gambling

        For many Americans, it’s time to make New Year’s resolutions: promises we make to ourselves to change our behavior in a positive way. If your gambling creates problems that keep you awake at night or it sparks conflict in your relationships, it might be time to change that behavior so you can live the life you deserve. Here’s how to keep a resolution to decrease or stop gambling this upcoming year.

        Join a gambling self-help group.

        Groups like Gamblers Anonymous (GA) can provide the support network you need to stop problem gambling behaviors. GA’s recovery program is based on the 12-step model that seeks to help people recognize their negative behavior and the impact it has on their life and the lives of those around them. The group is open to anyone who wants to stop gambling, and there’s no cost to attend. Find a GA meeting near you.

        Seek professional counseling.

        A professional therapist can be an ideal partner for reducing gambling in the new year. He or she will talk with you to learn more about your behavior, concerns, lifestyle, and more. Then the counselor will make recommendations for treatment and recovery.

        Treatment for problem gambling usually includes a range of therapies that support each other. The foundation is talk therapy, which will help you recognize your behavior and its impact, as well as identify your personal gambling triggers. You’ll learn practical strategies to deal with those triggers in a more positive way so you can avoid relapses. Additional therapies vary, and they may include family/marriage counseling, financial/debt counseling, and, when necessary, substance abuse help or treatment. Find a gambling addiction treatment provider in Lebanon County, Lancaster County, and the surrounding areas.

        Commit to lifestyle changes.

        Stress is a primary trigger for many problem gamblers. Learning to reduce stress in a healthy way can reduce the craving to gamble and support long-term recovery. You’ll discover many different ways to dial down stress, but some of the more common methods include:

        • Physical exercise;
        • Meditation;
        • Journaling;
        • Hobbies, including crafts, music, art, and more;
        • Volunteer work.

        Additional problem gambling resources in PA

        Begin your new year by taking positive steps toward reducing or eliminating the gambling behavior that keeps you awake at night or affects your relationships. For more judgment-free guidance, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 or use this simple gambling help form.

         

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          Do Casinos Enable Problem Gamblers? [Gambling in the News]

          What role do casinos play in the development or enablement of gambling addiction? John Rosengren recently investigated in How Casinos Enable Gambling Addicts.

          The article, published in The Atlantic, begins with the story of a gambling-addicted man on the brink of suicide after his behavior triggered criminal charges for alleged theft from his employer.

          Rosengren’s reporting then reveals that casinos have developed a way to calculate the “predicted lifetime value” of an individual gambler. Repeat gamblers who lose lots of money are called “whales.” He reports that casinos often cater to “whales” to get their repeat business. In one case, the article recounts, an Iowa casino reportedly upped one frequent gambler’s limit on some slot machines and even gave her the opportunity to be the first to play a new slot machine the casino had installed.

          The article also describes the potential danger of virtual reel slot machines, which use technology—not mechanics—to determine where the wheel stops. Furthermore, virtual slots create “near misses,” which give the player the impression he or she almost won—a tantalizing catalyst to bet even more. (Get more info on how gambling machines are addictive by design.)

          Rosengren’s article is heartbreaking and worth the read.

          Gambling addiction is a complex condition, and, while the role of casinos is certainly a factor to consider, specific risk factors also increase the chance of developing it. A few risk factors include:

          • Starting to gamble at an early age;
          • Having a history of impulsive behavior;
          • Having a family history of addiction;
          • Having a personal history of addiction;
          • Experiencing trauma.

          If you’re concerned about your gambling behavior or that of someone you love, take the assessment quiz on our home page. You may also want to check out a list of Gambling Addiction Treatment Providers in Lancaster, PA and the surrounding area. For additional help, use our online help form.

           

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            Slots & Poker Apps: Gambling with Addiction? [Research]

            People who play digital simulated gambling games were “significantly” more likely to report problem gambling behaviors, according to a recent Australian study.

            Social casino gamers is a term that describes people who play simulated casino games that don’t involve real money wagers. Examples include apps that mimic slots or poker games.

            The research, which was reviewed on the Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report (WAGER), was based on interviews with 2,010 gamblers. The results revealed that 15% of social casino gamers were at moderate risk for developing problem gambling, while 5% were problem gamblers.   Social casino gamers were also less likely to be non-gamblers. The group reported it was more likely to engage in other risky behaviors, too, including smoking and illegal drug use.

            As noted in WAGER, the findings don’t necessarily say that social casino games create gambling addiction; it’s possible that people who are already at risk for problem gambling are more attracted to these types of games.

            However, it’s also important to consider whether the findings could suggest that social casino gaming puts players at higher risk because it nurtures a false sense of skill. In addition, another study found that people who played free gambling games bet “significantly” more in real money games later than those who hadn’t played the free games. Gambling-like apps may also make gaming much more accessible to youth, potentially increasing their vulnerability to developing gambling problems later in life. Learn more about Kids and Simulated Gambling.

            Problem Gambling Resources in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA

            If you’re a concerned health care or mental health professional, visit Problem Gambling Resources, bookmark our Gambling Blog, or follow Compass Mark on Facebook for the latest in news, research, and training opportunities.

             

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              The Holiday Gifts You Shouldn’t Give to Your Kiddos: Problem Gambling Prevention

              Got your holiday shopping wrapped up yet? (Pun intended!) Well, if you’re still hunting down presents for your younglings, there are a few ideas you may want to avoid: gambling-related toys and games.

              What harm can gambling toys & games do to kids?

              These types of gifts can increase a child’s potential for developing problem gambling, a diagnosable condition that impacts the gambler and their loved ones emotionally, physically, and financially.

              Children and teens who begin to gamble at an early age are at higher risk for gambling problems later in life. However, a specific type of game may be putting even more kids at risk: gambling apps. Many kids’ wish lists include tablets or other mobile devices that give them access to games, including those with gambling themes.

              Research suggests that youth who play simulated gambling games—those that don’t require actual money to play—are more likely to report gambling problems. Experts believe this is because gambling-type apps reinforce winning behavior without exposing kids to the real-world consequences of losing. Learn more in Simulated Gambling May Be a Gamble for Kids.

              If you give tech gifts this year, engage parental controls to ensure your child can’t access gambling apps.

              Other holiday gift ideas can reinforce unhealthy gambling behavior, too. Avoid giving kids gifts like:

              • Casino-themed card or board games, such as toy roulette sets;
              • Gambling-themed items, like slot machine piggy banks;
              • Scratch-off lottery cards.

              Signs of Problem Gambling in Children & Teens

              Now and throughout the year, stay alert for red flags that suggest your child or teen may have a gambling problem. Signs include:

              • Experiences mood swings based on whether they’ve won or lost;
              • Neglects school or work responsibilities to gamble or play gambling-type apps;
              • Begins hanging out with a new set of friends;
              • Steals or lies for money;
              • Sells prized possessions;
              • Shows a sudden interest in sports stats or scores (in those addicted to sports gambling).

              A counselor trained to work with problem gamblers can assess and diagnose at-risk or addictive gambling behavior in a child or teenager. Call Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 for confidential guidance or visit Gambling Treatment Resources in Lancaster and Lebanon.

               

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                Problem Gambling Linked to Mental Health Disorders in U.S. Tribal Communities [Research]

                American Indian (AI) and Alaskan Native (AN) community members with low- or at-risk gambling behaviors were more likely than non-gamblers to have had a psychiatric disorder, according to researchers studying the tribal communities.

                The study, which was reviewed on The Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report (WAGER),  looked for connections between problem gambling and a range of other diagnosable conditions, including anxiety, mood disorders, substance abuse, and personality disorders.

                In addition, it revealed “AI/AN adults had 20% increased odds of being a low-risk gambler versus a non-gambler, when compared to white/Caucasian adults,” according to WAGER. However, the tribal populations were not more likely to be at-risk gamblers than the white/Caucasian group.

                These findings show yet another connection between problem gambling behavior and other conditions related to mental health. Over the years on our gambling blog, we’ve looked at this addiction’s connection to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, and suicide.

                WAGER also suggests the research underscores the idea that customized intervention strategies may be needed for some problem gamblers—in this case, tribal community members who may feel oppressed in their daily lives and historically traumatized.

                Problem Gambling Help Resources for Professionals in Lancaster & Lebanon

                If you’re a counselor or other healthcare professional in Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA who would like additional gambling addiction prevention, intervention, or treatment resources, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831.

                 

                 

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                  Prevent Gambling Addiction Relapse: Tips for Navigating the Holidays

                  As the holiday season approaches, stress levels tend to increase—and that sometimes presents challenges for people in recovery from gambling addiction. Here are tips to help you reduce the urge to gamble when holiday craziness starts to get under your skin:

                  Know your triggers.

                  Stress is a common relapse trigger, but it’s not the only one. Even if you’ve gone through the process of identifying triggers before, now is a good time to review them. This will help keep them at the top of your mind, so as triggers appear you can recognize them and take action.

                  Connect with a self-help group.

                  A community of people living with the same problems and urges as you can be a valuable tool for maintaining recovery. Gamblers Anonymous is a support group specifically for those with problem gambling. Members provide each other with support and share resources in a confidential environment. Find a Gamblers Anonymous meeting in PA.

                  Reduce or eliminate alcohol intake.

                  From office parties to family get-togethers, alcohol is common at holiday functions. Be aware that alcohol lowers inhibitions and that can make you vulnerable to relapse.

                  Avoid situations that include gambling.

                  Family traditions that involve wagering, like poker games, can be hard to navigate. However, your emotional well-being and long-term recovery is more important than any family tradition. Excuse yourself from gambling-related entertainment, and grab a loved one to do another—healthier—activity with you.

                  Be vigilant about financial temptation.

                  The holidays tend to get crazy with errands—errands that often involve money. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or keeping extra money in bank accounts to which you have access. If you start feeling stressed and know the cash is available, it can lead to a gambling relapse.

                  For confidential guidance or to find gambling addiction treatment resources in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA, call Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831 or submit this online help form.

                   

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                    #ExtraGive to Help Prevent Problem Gambling in Kids

                    Would your child know what to say if someone asked him or her to gamble? Every day, whether it’s at home or school, children in the Lancaster, PA community face tough choices about unhealthy behaviors–and gambling is one of those.

                    Many adults are able to gamble without negative consequences; however, children and teens who gamble are at higher risk for developing gambling addiction later in life.

                    Problem gambling is a diagnosable condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or financial status. It’s been connected to an increased risk of substance abuse, depression, and suicide.

                    Learn more in 5 Problem Gambling Myths Exposed.

                    Help Kids in the Lancaster Community Make Healthy Choices About Gambling

                    Since 1966, Compass Mark has helped individuals, families, educators, and others prevent addiction in our community. We serve over 17,000 people each year through substance abuse and problem gambling education, youth development, and information / referral services.

                    We offer a youth gambling and addiction prevention program called We Know BETter to schools in Lancaster and Lebanon. This curriculum, aimed at students in grades 4-8, incorporates age-appropriate activities to help youth learn practical refusal skills and improve coping strategies.

                    Donate to Compass Mark on Friday, November 18, 2016 during The Extraordinary Give. Your investment in the Lancaster community will help our team continue to teach kids and teens the life skills they need to  make healthy decisions. For more information about this event, visit Extra Give.

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