Author: Quinetta Womack, Director of Problem Gambling Services
Problem gambling is a serious addiction that affects thousands of Louisianans. A state study on problem gambling revealed that as many as 275,000 people in Louisiana are involved in problem gambling activities, affecting the individual, their family, friends, co-workers and society as a whole.
A gambling disorder, is gambling behavior which causes disruptions in any major area of life whether that be psychological, physical, social or vocational. It’s characterized by increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, “chasing losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences.
It is sometimes referred to as a “hidden disease” because it can’t be smelled on someone’s breath, and a urine test can’t be given to detect it. Also, the stigma, shame and guilt associated with the disease make those who have it want to deny it or keep others from finding out. Unfortunately, this also keeps people from seeking help early in the addiction, prior to major life consequences.
A 2010 study found that the problem crosses all ages, genders and races. Calls to the toll-free Problem Gamblers Helpline show that females represented 44 percent of the callers and males 56 percent. Most identified themselves as either Caucasian (49 percent) or African-American (45 percent).
There are a number of signs and symptoms of problem gambling. They include:
- Feeling the need to be secretive about your gambling
- Having trouble controlling your gambling
- Spending more time gambling than intended
- Increasing in size of bets (sudden and dramatic)
- Working up special occasions for gambling (canceling other plans)
- Gambling even when you don't have the money
- Intensity of interest in gambling (constant tension & excitement)
- Boasting about winning; evasive about losing
- Family and friends are worried about you
- Exaggerating displays of money and other possessions
- Dropping off in other activities
- Frequent absences from home and work
- Withdrawing from family
- Personality changes (increased irritability/hostility)
- Diversion of family funds
- Borrowing Money
- Criminal Activity
Additionally, if someone answers yes to any of the following questions, that person should seek the advice of an experienced gambling counselor.
- During the past 12 months, have you become restless irritable or anxious when trying to stop/cut down on gambling?
- During the past 12 months, have you tried to keep your family or friends from knowing how much you gambled?
- During the past 12 months did you have such financial trouble as a result of your gambling that you had to get help with living expenses from family, friends or welfare?
Fortunately, problem gambling is a treatable addiction. There are multiple resources in Louisiana to provide support to gamblers and their families. The state offers counseling and treatment programs at no cost to Louisiana residents including the country’s premiere residential treatment facility, The Center of Recovery (CORE), located in Shreveport. Since it opened in 1999, CORE has treated more than 3,200 compulsive gamblers. The state’s toll-free helpline handles on average, 2,400 calls or direct requests for help each month.
The state also offers prevention services, which is aimed at preventing youth gambling. If you or a loved one is struggling with problem gambling, hope and help is available anytime. Please call the Louisiana Problem Gambler’s Helpline at 1-877-770-STOP (7867), chat live at www.helpforgambling.org.