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Gambling and Drug Addiction: Are they Related?

Gambling addiction can be as severe in some ways as drug addiction. For many people this might include the need to seek professional gambling addiction treatment in order to regain control of their lives. But despite the similarities, substance abuse and drug addiction is vastly different than gambling addiction in one major way: if left untreated, drug addiction is fatal nearly 100% of the time. Understanding the correlation between problem gambling and drug addiction may help some people to recognize and seek help for both primary and secondary addictions and compulsions.

Gambling addiction is a serious problem in the United States that has cost some people and their families nearly everything they own. These addictions include simple games like slot machines to more complex forms of gambling – especially the higher card and table games. According to the Wikipedia entry for Problem Gambling;

“Problem gambling (ludomania) is an urge to continuously gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. Problem gambling often is defined by whether harm is experienced by the gambler or others, rather than by the gambler’s behavior.” (1)

And like drug addiction, that is the true defining characteristic of a neurological compulsion: continuation of a behavior despite severe consequences. This means that all addictions are essentially formed and function the same way:

  • A substance or action causes pleasure, relief, confidence, or some other “good feeling”
  • The brain memorizes the context of these occurrences and seeks to create them again and again
  • As the behavior is repeated, permanent neurological pathways are constructed in the brain to service the addiction

Once addicted, it’s often extraordinarily difficult for people to stop the behavior. This is especially true of both gambling and drug addiction, which create powerful feelings of euphoria. And for most addicts, it’s really not about the drugs or the money – it’s about the emotional and psychological effects they gain from the experience. From a recent article in the Bismarck Tribune;

“Although many gamblers are motivated early on by winning money, the addiction is really about escaping negative feelings and difficult life experiences,” said Vig, in a release.” (2)

But while the mechanisms responsible for drug and gambling addiction are the same in principle, the primary difference is the fatal nature of drug addiction. Gambling addicts sometimes lose all of their life’s possessions, but drug addicts often die slow, painful deaths that can take years to progress and have devastating effects on the people around them.

Possessions can be replaced, but a life taken by drug addiction is an irrevocable event.

If you or someone you love is plagued by drug addiction or alcoholism, you should know that there is hope, and it starts right now. Call the number at the top of your screen for a free, confidential consultation with a professional drug addiction treatment specialist. We’re here 24 hours per day to help guide you and get you the help you need right now, and we can assist you no matter where you’re located. There’s more that we can do for you than you might imagine, but we can’t do anything if you don’t call.

(1) Wikipedia Problem Gambling
(2) Herzog, Karen Survey Affirms that Gambling Addiction is not about the Money 03/06/2012 The Bismarck Tribune

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More