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The Unglamorous Reality of Gambling Addiction
by admin on: July 5th, 2011

When we think of gambling, most of us envision a scene at a Vegas casino, with a blackjack dealer dealing out hands of cards or spinning a roulette wheel as the martinis are flowing. Thrills, excitement, glamour! Shades of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Can’t you just imagine being in Oceans 11 doing the town in Vegas, walking out with buckets of cash; it’s all for the taking, right? Wrong.

Gambling is a potentially ruinous addiction, one that can rob a person of his or her life’s savings and livelihood in very short order. Common sense would indicate that gambling away one’s hard earned cash is a crazy thing to do so to paraphrase First Lady Nancy Reagan: don’t do it. Yet people do. Why?

For the classic gambling addict, the lure of big money payouts in Vegas or Atlantic City or the many other gambling clubs and casinos in between are just too hard to resist. Sure, you’re throwing this month’s house payment down on the table, but if lady luck comes a calling, you could walk away with thousands more than you’re throwing down. Yet gambling experts concede that though some people do win once in awhile (enough at least to keep them coming back), the odds are always in favor of the “house” in a gambling situation. So why do people do it?

The addiction to gambling is, like drug and alcohol addiction, a matter of impaired impulse control. According to MedicineNet.com, approximately 2 to 5 percent of the United States population suffers from a gambling addiction. Somebody has to keep the casino lights on in Vegas, right? The issue ranges from”problem” gambling which means a person has more than one addiction symptom, but less than five to binge gambling, which is compulsive gambling that only happens during certain times.

There are various risk factors for developing a gambling addiction, but all of these factors have to do with certain mood disorders involving low levels of serotonin in the brain????(people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are at high risk for this addiction). The gambling experience and its ongoing novelty seem to bring a level of satisfaction that is lacking in people with low serotonin levels.

Treatment for this harrowing addiction involves a psychological evaluation, ongoing therapy (there is a 12-step group called Gamblers Anonymous) and medication. The medications that are recommended include mood stabilizers like lithium or antidepressants like Anafranil. Antiseizure medications are also sometimes prescribed, as these drugs reduce the feeling of excitement that comes with the gambling experience, thus reducing the payoff that comes with throwing the dice.

Addiction, whether to gambling or drugs of any kind, is never a happy situation. Underneath the glamour of the reckless Vegas experience is a dark reality of ruined lives. For people who suffer from this addiction, the sooner help is called, the better.

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