A gambling addict is someone who is unable to stop gambling or control his or her impulses while gambling. This is often referred to as a process addiction or behavioral addiction, as the addict becomes hooked on certain behaviors such as gaming at a casino, betting on horse races, or sports betting.

Anyone can be affected by gambling addiction in much the same way as anyone can become addicted to alcohol or drugs. There are, in fact, some striking similarities between gambling addiction and substance abuse.

Causes of Both Gambling Addiction and Substance Abuse

Addiction is considered a disease and there is rarely a single, defining cause of a person’s addictive behavior. In most cases, a variety of factors contribute to an addiction forming, which will then require addiction treatment to begin recovery. Some of the factors that contribute to both gambling and substance abuse include:

  • Mental health issues
  • Unresolved emotional trauma
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Exposure to addictive behavior during childhood
  • Depression

When a person is suffering from a mental health issue, depression, or other emotional trauma, he or she may turn to addictive behaviors as a way to cope. Using either gambling or a substance to cope, however, has a similar effect on the brain.

The Similar Effects of Gambling and Substance Abuse

There have been several studies over the past decade that document how both gambling and drug addiction affect the brain. In the middle of the brain is a set of circuits that is known as the reward system; this portion of the brain deals with motivation, pleasure, memory, and movement. Both gambling and substance use release excess dopamine into that reward system, which gives a person a feeling of satisfaction and pleasure.

The negative effects of compulsive gambling and substance abuse are also similar. Continued use or behavior will result in a buildup of tolerance. This requires more of a drug or higher risk-taking gambling behaviors to get the same “high” as before.

As some point, other negative consequences from these behaviors begin to appear. Both gambling addicts and substance abusers find that they have problems with finances, relationships, and work. Many also end up with legal consequences, which make seeking addiction treatment a necessity.

man seeking treatment for compulsive gambling addiction

Getting Substance Abuse Addiction Treatment

Many drug addicts also transfer their addiction to gambling. PsychCentral reports that cocaine abusers are up to seven times more likely to turn to gambling than a non-addict. If you have a substance abuse problem alongside a gambling issue, you are not alone. The National Institutes on Drug Abuse reports that 23.5 million people in this country were battling addiction in 2011 and the National Council on Problem Gambling reports that there were more than 5.7 million problem gamblers in the U.S. in 2012.

The Recovery Village can help if you or a loved one has a substance abuse disorder, even if there is also a behavioral disorder present. The alcohol and drug addiction experts at the Recovery Village facilitate a comprehensive addiction treatment program that treats the whole person, with an emphasis on quality care and personal guidance. Contact us today to learn about admissions.

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What Compulsive Gambling and Substance Abuse Have in Common
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