Gambling involves risking something of value – typically money – on an event that has some element of chance in it, with the potential to win a larger prize. This includes activities like lottery tickets, cards, scratchcards, instant scratch ticket machines, dice, horse races, animal tracks, sporting events and more.
People gamble for many reasons – some do it to get that adrenaline rush, to socialise with friends, or to escape from stress or worries. But for some, gambling can become a serious problem and lead to financial and social consequences. If you’re concerned about someone, there are ways to help.
There are many resources available for those who need help with a gambling problem. Counselling can help people understand their behaviour and how it affects them and their family, and teach coping skills to manage the urge to gamble. It can also provide support for family members and friends of people with gambling problems. There are also peer support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step program Alcoholics Anonymous.
Longitudinal studies are a powerful tool for studying the impacts of gambling on individuals and communities. They allow researchers to examine patterns of behavior over time, and they can identify factors that moderate or exacerbate the effects of gambling. These types of studies are often more cost-efficient than creating smaller data sets with every new research project.
Many people have a difficult time stopping gambling even when they know it’s harmful to themselves and those around them. Those with severe gambling problems often experience suicidal thoughts, depression or anxiety. Some have lied to friends, relatives and colleagues in order to conceal the extent of their addiction. Others have resorted to illegal acts, such as forgery or fraud, in order to finance their gambling habits. Those with serious gambling problems can even jeopardize their jobs and career opportunities.
Getting help for gambling addiction can be tough, but there are many things you can do. Talk to somebody you trust who won’t judge you – this could be a friend or a professional counsellor. Reduce financial risks – take steps to prevent access to credit cards, make sure you always have a set amount of cash with you and avoid betting online or at gambling venues. Find other activities to do – try exercising, joining a book club or sports team, volunteering or taking up a hobby.
There is no medication that has been approved to treat gambling addiction, but there are treatments and recovery programs that can help. These are primarily in residential settings and include family therapy, marriage counselling, debt counselling, and a range of other recovery services. These can be helpful for those with serious gambling problems who may not be able to stop gambling without round-the-clock treatment and support. For more information, see the Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Gambling – financial issues’. The most effective way to tackle any problem is to seek help early, before it gets out of control.