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.