Gambling and Substance Abuse Share Characteristics, But Treatments Differ

Gambling and Substance Abuse Share Characteristics, But Treatments Differ

The rush that some people experience when they gamble, whether it’s at a table in a casino, online or in a weekly match with local enthusiasts, is sometimes so intense that an addiction is born.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not have a listing for gambling among its addictions, but despite its differences with substance abuse, problem gambling can be just as destructive. But gambling is differentiated due to its cognitive associations and is referred to as pathological gambling instead of classic dependence issues seen with substances.

Most gamblers, according to a mid-1990s study, have a belief that they can still win despite the amount they’ve already lost. Gamblers also believe that they will not be able to carry on with life without the excitement they get while putting up a large bet on their game of choice.

The urge to act on these false feelings is so strong that the only way to truly overcome the problem is to seek cognitive counseling. Those who are able to kick the habit without the assistance of cognitive therapy often relapse.

People with gambling or substance abuse problems have several common characteristics they share:

  1. They can’t stop despite the harm it causes
  2. Massive cravings for the activity
  3. A total preoccupation with it
  4. A need to increase the stakes, whether it’s money or the amount of drugs
  5. They use their habit as an outlet for something else in life that’s causing them anguish.

Most gamblers don’t seek help until they’ve gotten themselves into a financial crisis. Unfortunately, a trigger that gets problem gamblers back into the ring, so to speak, is the belief that the only way to get themselves back on level financial ground is to gamble their way there.

While correlations can be drawn between the addiction to gamble and the addiction to substances, the approach to treating them is most often approached very differently.

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