The need for Gambling Rehab as Gambling Addiction Grows

Not everyone who gambles becomes addicted

Not everyone who gambles becomes addicted to gambling or has a problem with gambling to the extent that it ruins their lives.  So, where is that transition from someone who enjoys the odd bet to the person who becomes so addicted that they will continue to gamble even though they are already in financial turmoil and that “just one more” will worsen the situation even further? 

The influence of gambling advertising

online lottery

Gambling is basically the same as any addiction where the change in our thinking and behaviour will happen over a period of time.  That period of time will be different for everyone but certainly with gambling there is now a set of circumstances that has shortened the time when someone will need to ask for help.  Firstly, any form of advertising promoting betting is legal. There is currently a sensory overload with advertising on all media encouraging people to gamble. Vast sums of money are being spent on advertising and clearly this is effective or these vast sums would not be spent.  The objective of these gambling ads is to get people to gamble more, or even to start gambling.  There is heavy competition in the gambling industry and gambling sites need to keep people spending on their sites – the same as in any other business.

Online gambling is made as easy as possible for people to participate and with a mobile phone or laptop you can start gambling with the click of a button.  The biggest problem with gambling ads is that they make gambling look glamorous and winning seems achievable. A high percentage of people will see this as a way out of their downward financial situation not accepting it is the start of a greater decline. Once a player places a bet online, betting companies collect the player’s activity data and can then tailor their offers to that specific player.  People with a gambling problem have noted that they are given more exposure and impact from gambling advertising.

Gambling has come a very long way from the high street betting shop through the advancement of technology, and has become normalised in our society.  It is a fact that adolescents are exposed to it at a very young age and grow up thinking gambling is a harmless activity. Researchers at the University of Stirling found that 96% of people aged between 11 and 24 years had seen gambling marketing messages in the last 4 weeks and were more likely to bet as a result. The earlier a person starts to gamble the more likely they are to develop a problematic relationship with gambling.

Children are taught about the dangers of alcohol and drugs in school but are not made aware of the risks of gambling.  It took a very long time before cigarette and alcohol advertising was regulated and stopped and  it seems as if it will be the same with gambling.  After all, what can be the problem with a company that advertises on the players shirts of your favourite football team?  Also another reason that the government might be very slow in imposing restrictions is because the gambling industry directly contributes in excess of £4.3 billion to the Exchequer on a yearly basis and that figure is rising.

Gambling addiction is a mental health problem

Problem gambling is an emotional problem that has financial consequences.  For example, if you pay off all the debts for someone with a gambling addiction, that person still has a gambling problem or disorder.  The issue rests with their thinking and behaviour and, until they are willing to change both, the problem will persist.  There will be a percentage of gamblers, the same as those with a drug or alcohol addiction, that will have a genetic pre disposition to become addicted. 

The cycle starts with the placing of the first bet: it activates the brain’s reward system which produces dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter inside the brain that reinforces sensations of pleasure and some will continue to gamble to keep feeling that sensation. It is the very act and “thrill“ of gambling and the pleasure we derive from it, not the winning or losing.  Gambling is unlike other addictions as it is associated with cognitive or thinking distortions. For example a gambler will say “If I keep gambling, then I will win”.  No one says that about alcohol, cocaine or heroin.   

The influence of working from home

Another factor leading to the rise in the number of people becoming addicted to gambling is as a direct result of Covid and the new regime of working from home.  People’s ethics around work structure has changed and there has been widespread reports of the effects of this on people’s mental health including boredom and loneliness. Certainly with a laptop open and with no other work colleagues around being able to see what you are doing, it is just so easy to click onto a gaming website and relieve what would initially be boredom.

Why problem gambling gets worse

Overtime, the brain will recognise that it is producing too much dopamine and will stop producing to higher levels. Thus a gambler will automatically place more bets to try and get the original pleasurable feeling back.  This in turn will lead to the rate and the amount of losses increasing.  It is very difficult to detect that anyone has a gambling problem simply because so many people will spend hours on their mobile phones or laptops and due to a combination of denial, pride and ego a gambler will not want to disclose the financial nightmare that will have been created because they will still believe there is a “win” for them. 

How gambling rehab can help

One of the most effective forms of treatment for a problem or addicted gambler is to go into a gambling residential rehab or gambling clinic  for a recommended treatment period of 28 days.  This will absolutely break the addictive cycle which is virtually impossible to do in the home or working from home environment.  They will also be able to engage with a structured daily therapy programme to help them understand what they need to do to maintain Recovery from their addiction. They will need to work on a daily programme of change, centred on their thinking and behaviour.  If this is not possible then Gamblers Anonymous support groups, which are free to attend, should be considered and meetings can be found by inputting your postcode in their website.