SEATTLE — Problem gambling can have many negative effects on individuals and families, and signs of the issue are often more hidden than other addictions.
During National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, Recovery Cafe is helping people understand more about the issue. Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling counselors Brad Galvin and Tana Russell work with individuals to overcome their addictions.
“It’s very common,” Russell said. “It’s hidden. Where something is widely accepted, the fact that people might struggle with that is also highly stigmatized. So, there’s incentive to not talk about it, and we need to have more people talking about it.”
For some, gambling can just be entertainment and a social outing. But for others, it can develop into a problem, and changes can occur in the brain. Gambling can act in the brain similar to the way substances do.
“This can be a really hidden addiction, so there’s nothing that may be obvious in terms of a hangover,” Galvin said. “Often, it’s much more subtle. That’s why it’s so important for us to be focusing on this.”
Problem gambling can have major issues on finances, relationships, sleep and mood. Signs may eventually show up in every area of a person’s life, including physically and emotionally.
People may be thousands of dollars in debt before the problem comes to light, “You can not only lose the money you have, but you can lose money you don’t have,” Galvin said.
Problem gambling has the highest suicide rate of any addictive disorder. One in four people who are diagnosed with gambling disorder attempt to take their life.
“We really need to take this seriously because people are dying as a result of this,” Galvin said.
Outreach and awareness can be life-saving efforts. March 10 is National Gambling Disorder Screening Day, and there are screening locations across Washington. You can meet privately with professionals to discuss issues and next steps.
Through inpatient or often outpatient treatment, people can experience recovery and feel more in control of their lives and well-being.
The Washington State Problem Gambling helpline is available by call or text 24/7 at 1-800-547-6133.