Get Inspired at the Addiction Recovery Walk and Rally August 28th

The Lancaster County Recovery Alliance (LCRA) Annual Recovery Walk and Rally is this coming Sunday, August 28th. Hear inspirational stories from people in addiction recovery, do some yoga, create something at our sign-making station, listen to music, and more!

The rally starts 9:30 a.m. Sunday in the front parking lot of the stadium, with Tim Stoddart, founder of Sober Nation, as featured speaker.

The Walk for Recovery is 1.8 miles and kicks off around noon, winding around the Franklin & Marshall College area. It begins and ends at Clipper Magazine Stadium.

If you’d like to stay for the Lancaster Barnstormers game, special Recovery Day tickets with all-you-can-eat Hess’s BBQ are ON SALE NOW! They must be purchased in advance–these tickets *will not* be available on event day. Contact Amy Sechrist at

The LCRA’s mission is to promote recovery from a range of addictions as well as addiction awareness and community outreach in Lancaster County. The group also works to remove the stigma of addiction–a stigma that makes it harder for recovering people to become engaged community members. The LCRA is made up of community members, including people in recovery, friends and family members, service providers, legal/law enforcement, church/faith-based organizations, corrections, the business community, and other allies. Learn more: Battle Addiction’s Stigma, Transform Recovery on LCRA’s Agenda.


Alcohol Abuse and Gambling: How to Break the Cycle

Gambling addiction isn’t a money problem. It’s a serious, progressive condition that’s connected to a host of other serious problems, including alcohol abuse. Here’s what you need to know about the alcohol abuse-gambling addiction cycle and how to break it:

Research suggests nearly 75% of people with the most serious form of gambling addiction abuse alcohol too. About 44% of those who struggle with at least some problem gambling criteria abuse alcoholic substances as well.

Why Do Alcohol Abuse and Problem Gambling Co-Occur So Frequently?

The significant stress and strain of living with an often hidden gambling addiction compels some people to turn to alcohol as a way to relieve those feelings. In other people, alcohol abuse leads to problem gambling. Alcohol lowers inhibitions–a factor that potentially results in anything from driving under the influence to betting too much at the blackjack table.

Regardless of the origin, these behaviors reinforce each other, and the result is frequently a cycle of drinking and gambling heavily. For some people, the behaviors are frequent, perhaps daily; for others, they occur in binges.

In addition, research suggests that substance abuse and behavioral addictions, like gambling, share some of the same biological foundations and risk factors.

Alcohol Abuse and Problem Gambling: Relapse Dangers

It’s also critical for anyone struggling with either condition to be aware of the potential impact of the other behavior on recovery. Gambling can provide a pathway toward relapse when someone is recovering from alcohol abuse. For example, alcohol is an ingrained part of casino and racetrack environments. An alcohol abuser in recovery might find it hard to resist cravings in a gambling atmosphere. The reverse is also true: a recovering problem gambler can find that alcohol lowers his or her inhibitions, making it harder to overcome gambling cravings.

You Can Break the Cycle.

Treatment and lasting recovery are possible! If you or someone you love struggles with both behaviors, it’s time to find specialized treatment that supports recovery from alcohol abuse and gambling addiction. Find a Treatment Provider, or contact Compass Mark for confidential guidance to help resources in Lancaster County and Lebanon County. Call our team at 717-299-2831 or use the Compulsive Gambling Help Form.

Learn More:

When a Loved One is an Alcoholic and Compulsive Gambler: Guide for Families
Trading Alcohol Abuse for Problem Gambling: 4 Facts for Loved Ones 


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.


Don’t Gamble Away the Holidays- Tips to Relieve Stress, Find Help

The holidays are a time of joy, celebration, and giving…except when they’re not. For many, holiday mode often brings an overloaded to-do list, endless errands, tired and off-schedule kids, or the frustration of dealing with family. The problem is that the stress can nudge you into unhealthy stress relief behaviors, including gambling.

Problem gambling is a condition in which gambling behavior negatively impacts the gambler and the lives of his or her loved ones. Numerous factors play a role in its development, and, for those who are at risk, the hustle and stress of the holidays can start a person on the path to compulsive gambling.

Learn if you’re at risk for gambling addiction by taking the SafeStakes quiz on our home page.

How does the holiday season impact gambling behavior?

Stress: While our to-do list seems to double during the holidays, the length of our days does not. Many of us find ourselves baking cookies at odd hours or battling traffic and crowds to get errands done. People cope with stress in a variety of ways: some soak in a hot bath, others write in a journal, and some will gamble.

Depression: The holiday season sometimes amplifies major life changes or transitions. When a person is struggling with a divorce or grieving the loss of a loved one, it can seem reasonable to find solace or “lose yourself” in an activity like gambling, which offers excitement and the alluring promise of a Big Win.

Alcohol abuse: From binge drinking at holiday parties to having a couple of glasses of wine after a busy day, those who turn to alcohol for stress relief may also find themselves more vulnerable to gambling addiction. Learn more in When a Loved One is an Alcoholic and Compulsive Gambler.

Here’s how to stay healthy at holiday time:

1. Find good-for-you stress relief strategies.

There are as many ways to unwind as there are to display that Elf on the Shelf. Make time for those healthy activities that help your body and mind slow down and relax.

  • Do a relaxing activity, like taking a bath or a long walk.
  • Engage in something creative, such as writing, painting, or woodworking.
  • Practice yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a healthful diet.
  • Get the proper amount of sleep.

2. Seek help if you have concerns about gambling.

Trained counselors have the know-how and tools to diagnose problem gambling as well as contributing conditions, like depression or alcohol abuse. Talk therapy is usually the foundation for gambling treatment, but, in some cases, medication is also used. Support groups, like Gamblers Anonymous, are an important recovery tool for some problem gamblers too. Check out:

If you’d like more information about problem gambling prevention or treatment, contact the Compass Mark team by using this help form or by calling (717) 299-2831. We’ll point you toward the path that leads to a healthier life for you and your loved ones.


Trading Alcohol Abuse for Problem Gambling- 4 Facts for Loved Ones

Your loved one is successfully recovering from alcohol abuse—but now he or she is starting to gamble too much. Is it really such a big deal? Yes. A recovering substance abuser who develops a gambling problem is putting more than just their money at risk. Learn more with these facts about cross addiction and problem gambling:

1. Cross addiction is replacing one addiction with another.

Experts estimate as many as 1 in 4 addicted people will switch to another addiction. Why? Addiction is a chronic brain condition that alters how a person perceives reward and pleasure. As a result, the brain will continue to seek new ways to feel good.

2. Cross addiction is dangerous.

It might seem like the development of problem gambling is “no big deal” after someone has stopped abusing alcohol. Yet gambling addiction is anything but harmless. It’s been linked to an increased risk for domestic violence, divorce, and depression. What’s more, surveys suggest up to about 25% of gambling-addicted people attempt suicide—among the highest rates of any addiction.

The strain and anxiety of struggling with compulsive gambling can also lead to a relapse in alcohol abuse recovery. For instance, a problem gambler might turn back to alcohol to self-medicate worries about paying bills or covering losses.

3. There are red flags for gambling cross addiction.

  • Becoming increasingly preoccupied with gambling
  • Unwilling or unable to account for periods of time
  • Committing theft, fraud, or forgery to pay bills or get gambling money
  • Experiencing mood swings based on outcome: joyful with wins, depressed with losses
  • Attempting to stop several times without success

4. Cross addiction is treatable.

It can be especially frustrating to see a family member or friend achieve recovery from one addiction only to have another develop. The good news is that compulsive gambling is treatable. Your loved one will need to continue treatment for their original addiction and add treatment targeting the new one.

Gambling addiction is similar to substance abuse in many respects; however there are some differences that make it important to find a provider specifically trained to treat problem gambling. If you’re in Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA and need resources or referrals for gambling addiction, contact Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831 or use our online help form. We’ll point you toward the path that leads to healing—from any addiction.


How to Know if You Have a Gambling Addiction

Gambling is harmless fun for many in Pennsylvania, whether it’s betting on a big sports game or spending the day at a casino with friends. About 85% of Americans say they’ve gambled at least once. While many of those players are able to walk away from the table and continue with their everyday lives, some cannot.

Gambling addiction is a real condition that impacts millions of Americans. Up to 6 million have some symptoms of problem gambling, while up to 2 million show symptoms of uncontrollable (pathological) gambling.

6 Signs of Problem Gambling

1. You’re increasingly preoccupied with gambling.
Those able to gamble for fun don’t have betting on their minds during work or school or when they’re with family. A problem gambler, on the other hand, will spend increasing amounts of time with that next wager on his or her mind. Perhaps you watch the clock all morning, waiting for lunchtime so you can play a casino app. Or maybe you lose sleep trying to figure out how you’re going to explain the loss of the rent money.

2. You borrow money to gamble.
A problem gambler doesn’t stop playing just because he or she runs out of money. It’s not uncommon to borrow money so the game can go on. However, that debt is often never repaid. In some cases, a person mired in addiction goes beyond borrowing and instead forges, steals, or commits other illegal acts.

3. You’ve made unsuccessful attempts to stop.
One of the top signs of addiction is the inability to stop—and stay stopped—without professional help. People struggling with compulsive gambling can’t resist the urge to place a bet, regardless of the tremendous strain on their relationships, job, and finances.

4. Your moods are affected by gambling.
Do losses trigger anxiety, frustration, irritation, or anger? If gambling is no longer fun, it’s a sign you may have problem gambling.

5. You abuse alcohol or other substances.
Researchers found that people with disordered gambling behavior were more than twice as likely to exceed sensible drinking limits, which in this study was defined as 21+ drinks per week for men and 14+ drinks per week for women. (Learn more about gambling and health.) Sometimes substance abuse is present before the gambling addiction; other times, the strain and stress of problem gambling contributes to the development of substance abuse.

6. You miss out on important events.
The need to feel the rush that comes from gambling becomes a priority. You might call in sick to work so you can hit the racetrack or casino. Maybe you’re late for—or even miss—your child’s karate test because you’re so into a slots app that you lose track of time.

To learn if you’re at risk for problem gambling, take the quiz on the SafeStakes home page.

Gambling addiction is treatable.

Compass Mark provides compulsive gambling information and referrals in Lancaster County and Lebanon County. Contact our team at (717) 299-2831 to find the resources you need to heal from addiction.


How Can a Person Get Addicted to Gambling?

We all recognize that sometimes drug and alcohol use triggers addiction, a progressive condition that drives a person to seek reward or pleasure from those substances, often at the expense of physical and emotional well-being. During addiction, these chemicals alter brain chemistry, changing the way that person thinks, behaves, and makes decisions. But it can be harder to understand how a person becomes addicted to a behavior like gambling. After all, it’s not a chemical like alcohol or other drugs.

Yet the brain can develop an addiction to gambling. The DSM-5, the most recent edition of a manual used by mental health professionals to classify disorders, lists pathological gambling as an addiction (it had previously been classified as an impulse-control disorder). The change reflects new research showing compulsive gambling’s similarities to substance abuse.

How Can An Activity Be Addictive?

When humans do something that benefits survival, like exercise or sex, the brain releases dopamine, a chemical that gives the body a “feel-good” kick, encouraging us to do that activity again. Alcohol and drug use inundates the brain with high dopamine levels, which produces euphoric feelings. The substance abuser wants to experience that high again so he or she continues to drink or do drugs. Over time, a tolerance develops and the person needs increasingly higher amounts of the substance to feel the same high. When the user stops abusing, he or she experiences physical and/or emotional withdrawal.

Research over the last decade has shown that problem gamblers undergo brain changes much like those of people struggling with substance addiction. For example:

  • One study found that problem gamblers had increased activity in reward-related brain areas when they were shown gambling-related cues.
  • In brain imaging studies by Yale University, pathological gamblers demonstrated brain activity similar to that of cocaine addicts experiencing cravings for the drug.
  • University of British Columbia researchers found that problem gambling behavior in rats can be treated with drugs that block reward-related dopamine and serotonin receptors. (To conduct this study, the researchers actually built a “rat casino” with paw-operated slot-machine devices.)

Gambling-addicted people, like those with alcohol or drug addiction, can eventually lose control of their behavior. A compulsive gambler becomes obsessed with placing the next big wager, even if that means gambling away the rent money or hurting loved ones. People struggling with this condition have a higher risk of depression, substance abuse, and suicide. It can affect anyone, regardless of the person’s age, gender, race, or economic status.

Problem Gambling is Preventable & Treatable.

Compass Mark shares addiction information and resources with individuals, families, educators, HR professionals, and counselors. If you’re in Lancaster, PA or Lebanon PA, contact our office at (717) 299-2831 or submit this easy help form.


When a Loved One is an Alcoholic and Compulsive Gambler – Guide for Families

Alcohol abuse destroys relationships and lives. So does gambling addiction. When the two combine, the results can be shattering—to the gambler and those around him or her. Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among those with a gambling problem. About 73% of pathological gamblers have an alcohol use disorder, according to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

Alcoholism and compulsive gambling share many similarities. For example, both involve the brain’s reward system, particularly the neurotransmitter (brain chemical) called dopamine. The conditions share risk factors as well, including having a family history of addiction, living with a mood disorder (like depression), or experiencing trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse. For more information on the link between these addictions, read From Substance Abuse to Gambling- Cross Addiction FAQ Guide.

The Alcohol-Gambling Cycle

One of the hardest parts of living with alcoholism and gambling addiction is that the conditions reinforce each other. Excessive drinking interferes with decision-making abilities, leading to poor judgment and a higher inclination to take risks. Some studies suggest a link between alcohol use and a higher willingness to gamble or place higher bets. In addition, gambling itself can encourage drinking, particularly when the gambler is in an environment, like a casino, in which alcohol is readily available (and, sometimes, free). The stress of problem gambling also triggers feelings of depression and anxiety, which may lead to further alcohol use. The result can be a vicious cycle that fractures relationships, destroys careers, and drains finances.

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse & Gambling Addiction

Professional treatment can help a person lead a healthier life. However, the key is to get help for each addiction. A therapist with experience treating alcohol abuse may not have experience treating gambling addiction. It’s essential to find a professional licensed to treat both, or a team of professionals able to work together to treat your loved one for both conditions.

The first step may be detox to eliminate alcohol from the body in a safe and medically-monitored environment. After detoxification, your family member will start the real work of treatment. Licensed therapists will identify triggers for each behavior and help the addicted person learn how to cope with those triggers in a healthy way.

Depending on the situation, your loved one may or may not receive medication. Some prescription drugs, like naltrexone, can treat both conditions. Remember, medication is only one part of a comprehensive strategy for addiction treatment.

Your family member might also need additional help, such as 12-step support groups (Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous), family or marriage therapy, or money management skill-building.

Since 1966, Compass Mark has helped people in the Lancaster/Lebanon area find help for addiction. Call (717) 299-2831 or use our help form. We’ll point you to alcohol abuse and compulsive gambling resources.


Can Gambling Become an Addiction?

Most of us are familiar with addictions, like those to drugs or alcohol. But can playing poker or other games of chance, placing sports bets, or wagering online—activities, not substances—lead to an addiction to gambling? After all, the person playing doesn’t drink, smoke, or otherwise consume a chemical that affects the brain. The answer is Yes, problem gambling is a real addiction that requires treatment.

Gambling Addiction: A Medical Condition

Compulsive gambling is classified as an addictive disorder. Like other addictions, it has its roots in the brain. During gambling, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine, which increases feelings of pleasure or reward. Sometimes a person begins to crave this feeling, so he or she continues to play. Eventually, a compulsive gambler is no longer able to control their behavior, gambling regardless of the consequences to their relationships, finances, or career.

Imaging studies suggest that the brains of problem gamblers work much like those in people addicted to alcohol or drugs. Various studies have shown that compulsive gamblers have abnormal activity in the brain region connected to decision making plus higher levels of activity in regions linked to risks and rewards. There are other similarities with substance addictions as well, including an increasing inability to control the behavior, making unsuccessful attempts to stop, and increasing tolerance.

Typically, a person with one addiction is at higher risk for living with another, including alcoholism. One recent study suggests that problem drinkers are up to 23x more likely to have a compulsive gambling problem than those without an alcohol abuse disorder. The two addictions are probably connected for a number of reasons, including shared risk factors, the ability of alcohol to lower inhibitions, and the alcohol-rich environment of many gambling facilities.

Causes of Compulsive Gambling

It’s a complex condition, and many factors contribute to its development, including having a family history of addiction. Environment can play a role; research shows that gambling addiction rates increase within a 50-mile radius of gaming facilities. What’s more, kids who receive lottery tickets as gifts are more likely to develop problem gambling later, suggesting that an environment that normalizes gambling has a negative impact. There are factors linked to emotional well-being, too, such as living with high levels of stress or struggling with depression.

Problem Gambling Can Be Treated

Gambling addiction is a condition that responds to professional treatment, which typically combines psychotherapy (talk therapy) and self-help groups (like Gamblers Anonymous). In some cases, a medication such as naltrexone is prescribed to work in conjunction with therapy.

For free help to find problem gambling treatment or education resources in Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA, contact Compass Mark. Our trained team provides guidance to families, employers, educators, and mental health professionals. Use this help form or call our office at (717) 299-2831.

Free Training Opportunity for PA Problem Gambling Competency (CCPG)

Would you recognize the signs a client is addicted to gambling? Would you be able to design a treatment plan that helps someone start down the path toward healing? If the answer is “no” or “I’m not sure” then you may want to check out this opportunity. Addiction professionals in Pennsylvania will have the chance to complete the 30 hours of training needed to apply for a Level 1 PA Certificate of Competency in Problem Gambling (CCPG).

Why should you consider this training?

Compulsive gambling has a profound effect on the life of the gambler and his or her family. It fractures relationships, destroys financial well-being, and, in some cases, prompts the gambler to steal or embezzle. The gambling-addicted person may feel like his or her life is being crushed under the staggering weight of lies, guilt, anxiety, or feelings of hopelessness. Nowhere is that more evident than in the statistics regarding suicide attempts among those with the addiction. For example, about 21% of gamblers calling a helpline reported attempting suicide, according to a study from Yale University and the CT Council on Problem Gambling.

Your clients may be struggling with this destructive behavior, which is often called the hidden addiction because it has few physical signs. Several studies suggest that treatment-seeking substance abusers have a high rate of problem gambling behaviors, with rates ranging from 9% to 30%.

The Lancaster, Lebanon, and York, PA addiction professionals who completed this training in 2012 reported that following the first training session they were able to better identify gambling issues in their current clients. Why the shift? The trainees reported they had learned how to screen for and discuss this often unaddressed problem. “There was something magical about witnessing that discussion among the group starting with the second training,” said Amy Sechrist, Compass Mark Certified Prevention Specialist.

PA Certificate of Competency in Problem Gambling Training Details

Training is free, courtesy of a state gambling prevention grant, and is available for participants with existing PA Certification Board credentials.

Registrants should plan to attend all four sessions, which run from 8:30am to 4:30pm each day:

February 25- Problem Gambling for Beginners: The Hidden Addiction

March 7- Problem Gambling: Co-Occurring Disorders

March 19- Problem Gambling: Practical & Essential Strategies

April 8- Problem Gambling: Treatment Design

This program includes:

• 30 hours of DDAP-approved content by trainer Nancy Milliron;

• Continental breakfast and lunch each day;

• A 350-page training manual.

Sessions will be held in the Blair Room at our Janet Avenue, Lancaster offices. (Please dress in layers.) To register, contact Amy Sechrist at (717) 299-2831.