Unfortunately, the majority of individuals who are identified as having a compulsive gambling problem are in the late stages of gambling. At this point, most of these individuals have experienced havoc and devastation as a result of their addiction. Individuals have lost important relationships, been terminated from their jobs, gambled away their savings, retirement, their children’s college funds or other assets, become bankrupt, been charged with criminal offenses or attempted suicide.
Gambling is an insidious addiction that negatively impacts individuals and their families on multiple levels. Unlike substance abuse, gambling does not manifest outwardly that would indicate there is a problem. Individuals with gambling addiction do not have bloodshot eyes, slurred speech or staggering gait. In majority of cases, when a family member or friend discovers that a problem exists, irreparable damage has been done. Gambling is easy to conceal. Individuals can maintain this secret until everything is lost.
Individuals with a gambling addiction will contact a gambling hotline when they have lost everything and there are no options to attaining more. As long as the person has a “token,” they have hope and will continue to gamble. One of the greatest challenges for a professional is to identify the gambling in its early stages. The addiction is easy to conceal as there are no physical manifestations and gambling is a socially acceptable recreational activity.
An effective way to identify a gambling problem is to use a screening instrument. Identifying a gambling problem in early stages is helpful in attaining professional assistance early on to prevent gambling from causing serious damage. When damage is great, individuals are unable to cope and often attempt suicide. Twenty percent of individuals who gamble compulsively attempt suicide. When they lose family friends, develop insurmountable financial problems and become “spiritually bankrupt;” they lose hope and feel alone.
When individuals need the greatest help, they are unable to attain it because they have no money left to pay for treatment. A person in late stage gambling needs long-term inpatient treatment. A free treatment program is available in Shreveport, La. It is a 36-day inpatient gambling program that is free to the state’s residents. Casinos are responsible for financing this treatment center. To attain more information, you may contact CORE director Reece Middleton at (318) 424-4357. For early-onset gambling, individuals may attend outpatient treatment. Treatment should consist of individual and group therapy in conjunction with a self-help 12-Step program (Addiction Pro, 2012).
A.C.T. will provide free resource information for individuals and families to help promote education. For more information, please contact Dr. Drecun at Dr.Drecun@a4ct.com or (858) 792-3541. You may also visit us online at www.a4ct.com. ACT serves the Del Mar 92014 and Carmel Valley 92130 area.