For most people, gambling is a social activity done with family or friends for recreation, and lasts for a limited time. An acceptable amount of money that can be lost is predetermined and that amount is adhered to. For these individuals gambling is a recreational event . However, recent studies show that about 2.5 million Americans are pathological gamblers and another 3 million Americans are problem gamblers. Broadening the diagnostic criteria 15 million Americans adults are at risk for problem gambling. Legalized gambling is available through multiple forms from soft gambling (lotteries and bingo) to resort casinos, urban/suburban casinos, race tracks, the stock market, sports betting, and the newest form of ultra-convenient gambling (interactive television, mobile phone, or internet gambling). Illegal gambling is harder to pin down. A few decades ago, Nevada was the only state where you could legally gamble. Now only two states, Utah and Hawaii, are without some form of legalized gambling. The lifetime prevalence rate for pathological and problem gambling is estimated as 1.2 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
What is Pathologic Gambling?
Pathological gambling (ludomania) relates to a relentless urge to gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop the gambling behavior. Pathologic gambling is also referred to as "compulsive gambling" or a "gambling addiction". These diagnostic terms are used to describe gambling behaviors which causes significant disruption in an individual's psychological, physical, social, financial, or vocational functioning. Pathological gambling is a progressive addiction characterized by an increased preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop gambling, "chasing" losses, and a significant loss of control of gambling activities despite negative consequents.
Gambling Facts to Ponder
- About 86% of Americans have gambled during their lives.
- 60% of Americans gamble in a given year.
- The amount of money wagered annually in the United States is estimated to be about $500 billion.
- Casino gambling (often referred to as "gaming") had gross revenues of $84.65 billion in 2005.
- The American Psychiatric Association says between 1% and 3% of the U.S. population is addicted to gambling, depending on location and demographics.
- Youth have even higher addiction rates, between 4 an 8%.
- Pathological and problem gamblers in the United States cost society approximately $5 billion per year, and an additional $40 billion, in lifetime costs related to productivity reductions, social services, bankruptcy, and health care. Each compulsive gambler costs the economy between $14,006 and $22,077 per year.
- About 80% of pathologic gamblers seriously consider suicide, and 20 to 30% actually attempt or succeed in killing themselves.
- Nevada has been the highest in the nation for suicides for 10 of the last 12 years
- Gambling addiction rates double within 50 miles of a casino
- Rates of past-year job loss are twice as high in individuals with a pathologic gambling disorder
- Rates of having filed for bankruptcy are four times as high individuals with a pathologic gambling disorder
Pathologic Gambling as a Mental Illness
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) classifies compulsive gambling as an impulse control disorder. Other impulse control disorders include pyromania and kleptomania. Compulsive gamblers simply cannot control the impulse to gamble, even when they know that their gambling is hurting themselves and their loved ones. Pathologic gamblers will keep gambling whether they're up/down, broke/flush, happy/depressed. Forensic studies have also confirmed that pathologic gambling is a brain disease similar to other types of addictions such as alcohol or substance dependency. The part of the brain that is most affected in compulsive gambling is the nucleus accumbens which is related to the pleasure center. Dopamine plays a role in developing any addiction. Brain cells release dopamine as part of the reward system through which you learn to seek pleasurable stimuli, such as food and sex. Imbalances in two other brain chemicals, serotonin and norepinephrine (adrenaline), are additional biologic factors in compulsive gambling.