March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month

By: Kathleen Blandin

When a game for money turns from a leisure to a need, that is when it affects families and friendships. For most, the thought of buying a scratch ticket is a once in a blue moon thing, for others it’s a nightly before work or on break thing; but when it becomes a compulsion that you can’t go without—that’s when you need to step back and decipher if this is something more than just a small habit.

Gambling is not just scratch tickets though, when someone feels the need to go to a casino once a week or more that’s when gambling becomes more serious. Just like nicotine in a cigarette or caffeine in coffee—these once simple every now and then habits can manifest into a full-blown addiction very rapidly.

If you have someone that you believe is hiding their gambling behaviors, sometimes simple conversations with said friends or family can help make them realize without being too invasive. If they say they are going to a store to shop, but instead are going to the casino; or running errands but taking longer than usual when they go into a convenience store (maybe to scratch scratch-tickets at the counter so you won’t notice), that is when family is needed to help soften the burden that is manifesting.

One of the many reasons that gambling can become a sudden addiction is desperation for quick, easy, and effortless money. The enticement that you can win big really gets to people’s heads. The media portrays the idea of never having to work another day of your life if you get that lucky win and people who struggle with gambling believe that the odds of this being them is a lot more reachable than reality.

With any addiction, depression and anxiety can start to set in and medication can help the victim of a gambling problem not to weigh the burden on their shoulders as heavy as they have been. Sometimes this person won’t stop their habit because if they just gamble one more time that could be their ‘big break’ to help reset their losses and damage that has happened from the addiction. Unfortunately, this is not how an addiction works—this only lights the fuse to continue following the bad habits that have led them down this road to begin with.

To help someone struggling with a gambling addiction, one must first help them realize the severity of the problem and agree to take the next step to get help. Whether help means that family steps in and tries to find ways to prevent addiction from continuing or seeking professional help, one must know that support is needed. Any small step towards help should be positive and not something you should dangle over someone that is struggling’s head.

With agreement for help, small steps can be taken to help alleviate the pressure of their addiction, for example if the family sees the person is always going out at night—maybe agree to take the car keys at dinner and return them in the morning.

To reach out for assistance and help you can contact the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling live chat or helpline number at 1-800-426-1234.




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