Some Gamblers Self-Medicate with Mobile/Computer Casino Games [Research]

Almost half of people at risk for gambling problems turn to social casino-type games on mobile devices or computers to cope with negative feelings, according to a study from Southern Cross University.

The study, which was reviewed by the Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report (WAGER), revealed that nearly half its sample played social casino games, like poker and gaming machines, to escape from problems or relieve a negative mood. Participants also reported unsuccessful attempts to stop or reduce playing, preoccupation with the games, withdrawal, and negative impacts.

Researchers and health care providers, including problem gambling therapists, have long understood that people who struggle with unhealthy gambling behavior sometimes use wagering as a form of self-medication. This research extends that idea to at-risk gamblers playing on mobile devices or computers.

The study doesn’t provide evidence that social casino games trigger traditional gambling, or vice versa. However, it does suggest that health care providers, such as mental health counselors, should be alert to problem gamblers turning to these games to self-medicate gambling urges.

In addition, health care providers should know that previous research has uncovered that people who play practice or no-money games are more likely to bet in higher amounts when they play for real money later. This could be because gambling app practice modes may generate confidence in skill level—a false sense considering that, ultimately, the house always wins. What’s more, there’s evidence that “payouts” for many practice or no-money games are higher than those in real money games, adding to that false sense of confidence.

Gambling Addiction Resources for Health Care Professionals

If you’re a health care provider or other concerned professional, visit Gambling Resources for more information. Are you in the Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA area? Call Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 to learn more about our gambling awareness and prevention programs or to get a treatment referral.


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 


Warning Signs of Problem Gambling [Infographic]

How do you know if you or a loved one is struggling with problem gambling? The signs of compulsive gambling aren’t always crystal clear (which is why it’s sometimes called the hidden addiction), but there are red flags that suggest it’s time to seek out professional help.

Gambling addiction is a diagnosable condition that impacts every aspect of life—not just the bank account. The stress and strain of this addiction affects physical and emotional well-being. It’s been linked to substance abuse, clinical depression, and increased suicide risk.

Check out this warning signs infographic from Ohio for Responsible Gambling. (If you need to view it at a larger size, right click on the image and choose “open image in new tab.”) Then take the simple assessment quiz on our home page to find out if you or someone you know is at risk for compulsive gambling. If you need additional help, a counselor trained to work with gambling addiction can conduct a thorough assessment and, when necessary, develop a treatment plan that points you toward recovery.


Learn More
Support Your Compulsive Gambling Recovery: Do’s and Don’ts
Is a Loved One Addicted to Gambling? 5 Tips for Family, Friends
Gambling Addiction Treatment Options in the Lancaster/Lebanon Area

Get Help
For 50 years, Compass Mark has been helping individuals and families discover help and hope for addiction disorders. Don’t wait until “rock bottom” to seek help.  Call our team for confidential guidance at 717-299-2831 or use the Compulsive Gambling Help Form.


Problem Gambling Trends 2016 [Infographic]

Gone are the days when a gambler’s only access to betting was on a casino floor, at a race track, or in a private card game. Now, virtually anyone with internet access, including kids, can be exposed to gambling–and the potential for developing gambling addiction. Check out the infographic below on Problem Gambling Trends and Issues in 2016 from Prevention Lane at Lane County Public Health in Oregon.

Then let us know in the comments section: Were you surprised by any of the stats? If so, which one?

To learn if you or a loved one is at risk for problem gambling, take this simple quiz or visit Get Help in Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA.



Oregon Gambling Addiction Program Focuses on Latino Community

Fighting a stuffy nose? Take a decongestant. Sinus infection? Perhaps antibiotics. However when it comes to problem gambling, a one-size-fits-most approach may not always be the most effective way to nurture recovery. That idea has led one Oregon community to launch a gambling addiction program focused on the needs of Latino problem gamblers, according to Oregon Live.

The program, called ¡Adelante!, offers culturally-specific addiction prevention and treatment. Recently it began hosting weekly meetings for gambling-addicted Latinos. The meetings provide a Spanish-speaking alternative to the English-speaking Gamblers Anonymous meetings in that area. In addition, the program offers a full-time bilingual problem gambling counselor, eliminating the need to deliver treatment via interpreter.

Another critical component is its focus on culturally-relevant conflict, particularly among families who have recently migrated—a situation that creates unique education and economic challenges that cause stress and conflict. What’s more, since conflict can make some people more vulnerable to developing addiction, Adelante helps Latino problem gamblers identify and heal the disconnect that sometimes happens between immigrants and their U.S.-born children.

The Oregon Live report says state gambling data reveals ethnic minorities are at higher risk for developing compulsive gambling. In addition, last year the Oregon Lottery debuted lottery tickets specifically targeted to Latino players. The lottery group also launched an initiative to raise problem gambling awareness among the Spanish-speaking community.

Gambling Treatment in Lancaster, PA & Lebanon, PA

A problem gambler doesn’t need to hit rock bottom before seeking treatment. This condition is progressive and requires treatment by a professional counselor trained to work with problem gamblers. To find a Lancaster- or Lebanon-area provider, visit Treatment Resources, or contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831.

Learn more about gambling addiction on our Resources Page.

Find out if you or a loved one is at risk by taking the quiz on our home page.


Specific Brain Connection Tied to Risky Gambling [Research]

People with a weaker neural connection between two specific brain regions may be more likely to make risky bets, according to recently-released research from Stanford University. The study was small, but it could help give direction to scientists and healthcare professionals working to understand the relationship between the brain and gambling addiction, a progressive disorder that impacts millions of Americans and their families.

During the study, which was published in the journal Neuron, each participant was given $10 and told to bet the money on a series of games or choose to not risk losing it.  Researchers monitored brain activity during the task with MRI technology.

The team found a direct neural connection between the anterior insula and the nucleus accumbens—a connection previously only recognized in animals.  The more thickly the cells in this pathway were insulated, the stronger the connection between the two areas. Participants with a stronger connection between the regions were more cautious gamblers.

In an article by Amy Adams for the Stanford News, researcher Brian Knutson said:

“Activity in one brain region appears to indicate ‘uh oh, I might lose money,’ but in another seems to indicate ‘oh yay, I could win something.’ The balance between this ‘uh oh’ and ‘oh yay’ activity differs between people and can determine the gambling decisions we make.”

The research offers clues that may help healthcare professionals and addiction therapists further expand their understanding of what is often a misunderstood condition.

Additional recent research in gambling addiction suggests:

Over time, the growing body of research will contribute to the development of more effective treatments for compulsive gambling.

However, problem gamblers don’t need to wait to reach out for help!

It’s never too early—or too late—to start on the path toward healing. Specialized therapists in Lancaster, PA and the surrounding areas have the tools to help you and your family. Find a treatment provider or contact Compass Mark at (717) 299-2831.


6 Gambling Addiction Red Flags You Need to Know

Why is compulsive gambling sometimes called a silent addiction? Other addictive behaviors often feature physical symptoms that tell family and friends there may be a problem. Think uncoordinated movement or the persistent odor of alcohol on someone’s breath. However, compulsive gambling offers few direct physical clues that suggest a person needs professional treatment. Here are 6 signs you or someone you love is struggling with compulsive gambling:

1. Spends increasing amounts of time gambling
The occasional poker game has turned into hours of online poker play every weekend. Gambling addiction is a progressive disorder, which means it worsens over time.  It can take a few years for gambling behavior to transition from harmless entertainment to full-blown problem—or a few months.

2. Lies or acts evasively about time or money spent gambling
Have you minimized tablet windows to hide gambling apps when a spouse walks into the room? Do you suspect a loved one has lied about what happened to the grocery money? It’s common for gambling-addicted people to hide their behavior from family and friends.

3. Continues to bet knowing there will be negative consequences
An addicted person will gamble even though he or she understands it will cause an argument with their spouse or make him or her late for work again. Problem gambling changes the brain in ways that alter decision-making abilities.

4. Experiences disruptive mood swings
Problem gambling can trigger excessive mood swings that interfere with normal life. A compulsive gambler might feel depressed and unable to work after losses or jubilant and distracted after wins.

5. Neglects school, work, or family responsibilities
From ditching class to bet on races to hitting the casino instead of a daughter’s soccer game, if the urge to gamble pushes you or a loved one away from necessary responsibilities, it’s time to reach out for help.

6. Makes unsuccessful attempts to stop on his/her own
Compulsive gambling changes the brain, which means a problem gambler can’t “just stop.” A therapist trained to work with gambling-addicted people can help with a combination of talk therapy, lifestyle change recommendations, and, in some cases, medication to control gambling urges.

Find out if you or someone you love is at risk for problem gambling by taking the quiz on the SafeStakes home page.

Compass Mark helps individuals and families in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA find compulsive gambling help resources. Our guidance is judgment-free and confidential. Call 717-299-2831 or use our online Addiction Help Form.


Some Online Gamblers More Likely to Chase Losses Than Others [Addiction Research]

Some online gamblers may be more likely to chase losses than others, according to a study recently reviewed on The Worldwide Addiction Gambling Education Report (WAGER). The researchers, who collected data on nearly 11,000 online gamblers, found that those who played online casinos were more likely to chase losses than those who played only online poker.

Why the difference? The study’s authors note that the poker players might be less likely because, in part, poker books, tutorials, and websites warn gamblers against the dangers of chasing losses.

In addition, the researchers found that gamblers who were more prone to chasing losses were also more likely to believe in two common fallacies connected to gambling addiction. The first is the Gambler’s Fallacy, which is the idea that the gambler is “due” for a win after a losing streak, and the second is known as the Hot Hand Fallacy, in which the gambler believes that a lucky streak will continue to produce wins.

Warning Signs of Gambling Addiction

Chasing losses is just one warning sign of compulsive gambling. Here are other red flags that indicate gambling is having a serious negative impact on a person’s life:

  • Declining performance at school or in the workplace;
  • Withdrawing from family & friends;
  • Being secretive about time or money spent gambling;
  • Gambling after the money runs out;
  • Borrowing money from family, friends, colleagues, or peers;
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop on his/her own.

Find out whether you or a loved one is at risk by taking the quiz on our home page.

Treatment for Gambling Addiction

Problem gambling can be treated by a counselor trained specifically to work with this condition. Talk therapy is usually the foundation for treatment, but additional strategies may help support recovery as well. A gambling addiction counselor might recommend self-help group meetings (like Gamblers Anonymous), stress relief techniques, financial counseling, and/or family therapy.

If you’re an educator, health care professional, or employer, Compass Mark offers gambling addiction resources in Lancaster County and Lebanon County. Whether you need prevention materials or treatment referrals, our team will guide you in the right direction. Contact us at (717) 299-2831.


7 Signs Gambling Isn’t a Game Anymore

For many people, gambling is just a game. They’ll lose a few bucks, maybe have a few laughs, and then wake up the next morning and move on with life. However, millions of Americans wake up the next day weighed down with gambling-related guilt, stress, or anxiety instead.

Problem gambling is a condition that affects the brain, changing the way a person makes decisions. Compulsive gambling, like other forms of addiction, impacts every aspect of life, from relationships to employment. It’s been linked to clinical depression, substance abuse, and an increased risk of suicide.

Do you have a gambling problem? Here are 7 red flags:

1. You gamble even when you don’t have money to spend. A person playing for fun will walk away after the money is gone. A problem gambler, on the other hand, will often continue to play after the “fun” money has run out. He or she will gamble with dollars intended for other purposes (like rent) or, in some cases, borrow, steal, or lie to find playing money.

2. You chase losses. Maybe after losing you think your luck is going to change—so you bet again and again. Perhaps you wager again after a loss believing that if you just change strategies you’re sure to win. However, gambling is a game of chance, and chasing losses does nothing more than add to your debt.

3. You’ve borrowed money from family or friends to gamble but haven’t paid it back. You likely had every intention of paying back the money you borrowed, but then you lost it gambling and couldn’t pay back the loan.

4. You’ve tried—and been unable—to stop on your own. Gambling addiction primes the brain to need the thrill of the wager and the excitement of a potential win. This shift in brain chemistry makes it tough for a gambling-addicted person to stop on his or her own.

5. You’re secretive or evasive about gambling. Do you click to another screen when someone walks in as you play a casino app? Have you neglected to tell your spouse how much you lost playing poker?  Whether you’ve failed to be open about the behavior or have stretched the truth, secrecy and evasiveness are signs of a gambling problem.

6. Your family or friends have expressed concern. Sometimes that concern is wrapped up in anger or frustration—and maybe you even feel like you’re being nagged. But if those around you have noticed how much you’re gambling, then it’s time for you to take notice too.

7. You gamble to relax or de-stress.  Gambling might seem like a natural way to relax, but the reality is that it’s likely to cause additional stress. Problem gamblers worry about how they’re going to pay the mortgage or how to explain where the paycheck went. Unhealthy gambling can also be the catalyst for relationship problems and stressful events like separation or divorce.

Find help for your gambling behavior.

When gambling starts to negatively impact your life, it’s time for change. Take the quiz on the SafeStakes home page to learn if you’re at risk. For more information about gambling problems and their prevention or treatment, contact Compass Mark by submitting this help form or calling our team at (717) 299-2831.