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March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month

March 24, 2016

     Community Mental Health Center, Inc., Lawrenceburg, with the National Council on Problem Gambling, recognizes March as National Problem Gambling Awareness Month. This year’s campaign continues with the theme “Problem Gambling: Have the Conversation."

     The National Council says, “The goal of Problem Gambling Awareness Month is to educate the public and healthcare professionals about the warning signs of problem gambling and to promote the availability of help and hope both locally and nationally."

     According to NCPG, more than five million Americans meet criteria for gambling addiction and many more are affected every day by an individual’s gambling problem. Statistics gathered from various health and governmental sources and posted on the National Council’s website indicate consumers spend more than $100 billion annually on legal gaming in the United States. At the same time, the social costs of problem gambling total about $7 billion every year. Social costs include addiction, bankruptcy, and related criminal activity.

     For most people, gambling is a fun diversion, but for a few, gambling can become a serious life-altering problem. Problem gambling is behavior that causes disruptions in any major area of a person’s life. According to the national council’s website, “It is important to recognize that most people can gamble without negative consequences. A small percentage, however, of persons who gamble suffer enormous social, economic and psychological implications. Individuals, families and communities all suffer from problem gambling."

     The annual NCAA college basketball tournament is entertaining for many and also represents a huge gaming interest for many. The National Council’s website states, “According to the American Gaming Association, an estimated 70 million Americans will fill out brackets this month and $9 billion will be wagered during the three-week basketball tournament.”

     The website goes on to state, “While gambling is an entertaining pastime for many, for some it can quickly become an overwhelming disorder. Chemicals in the brain are activated during gambling in much the same way as when drinking alcohol. Just as having a drink can develop into alcoholism, gambling activity can become an addiction, affecting more than 5 million Americans each year. Because a gambling disorder often goes unrecognized, only 8% of those with a problem ever seek treatment. Problem gambling is a legitimate mental health issue that responds well to treatment. If you suspect someone in your life has a gambling problem, have the conversation. Ask if they borrow money to gamble from friends or family. Ask if it interferes with their ability to focus on work or school. Ask if they’ve ever lied about their gambling or bet more than they intended."

     Would you recognize a gambling problem in someone you know? Signs of problem gambling include: argumentative and defensive behavior around gambling; unexplained absences for long periods of time; lies to loved ones about gambling behavior; going without basic needs in order to gamble, and borrowing money to gamble.

     Problem gambling is not a bad habit or a moral weakness. It’s a serious condition that responds well to treatment. Anyone can develop a problem with gambling. It can affect men or women of any age, race or religion, regardless of their social status. Some risk factors, individually or in combination, might make a person more vulnerable: a stressful life event, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, injury/disability; an early big win while gambling; pre-existing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or alcoholism, and family history of addictions such as alcoholism, compulsive gambling and drug addiction.

     There is hope and help for problem gamblers and their loved ones, and many people who seek help do recover. For more information, contact Community Mental Health Center, Inc., at (812) 537-1302, or contact the National Council on Problem Gambling at (800) 522-4700. Community Mental Health Center provides treatment services for problem gambling. For information on Indiana gambling treatment resources, contact the state’s problem gambling referral line at (800) 994-8448. To find out about meetings of Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon, call (866) 442-8621. Information on the Internet can be found on the National Council of Problem Gambling’s website at www.ncpgambling.org.

     All CMHC services are provided without regard to race, religion, disability, gender, color, age, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political belief, status as a veteran, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local law.

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