To people who don’t gamble, or more so to normal gamblers, the thought that they will progress to compulsive gamblers is ridiculous. The start of compulsive gambling may be incited by situations or circumstance. But the conditions are real.
What’s the similarity between pathological gambling and chemical dependency?
The first distinct similarity is the inability to take control or stop the addiction. The denials to the addiction accompanied by severe depression are also similarities. Both diseases are progressive in nature and goes through similar stages.
The first stage being the “chase”, looking for that high or win. The use of the addiction to numb the pain brought about by problems. The pathological gambler and a drug or alcohol dependent person are preoccupied with nothing else except their addiction. They look for immediate gratification and have very low self-esteem.
Pathological gambling not like chemical addiction is a disease not easily noticeable. There are a lot of indicators that would identify a chemically dependent person. But a gambler can exist normally for long periods of time. The large debt that a gambler can incur requires attention.
Pathological gamblers require crisis counseling at the start of their treatment, mainly because pathological gamblers have a higher suicide rate than persons addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Is the level of addiction for all types of gambling the same?
Forms of gambling that give immediate gratification are the worst kind. The slot machine and video are prime examples of these. The use of the instant gratification and effective reinforcement, gamblers that play these machines often progress into pathological gamblers more often than gamblers that play other games.
The time it takes to go from the first bet to a chronic addiction is shortest for this form of gambling. Before it would take many years before a person would be considered “sick” gambling in races, etc. Nowadays, it is fairly common for a person to be addicted to a slot machine or video poker with two to three years.
Is pathological gambling biological in nature?
Recent findings would indicate that pathological gambling is a dependency quite similar to a chemical dependency. A study by a psychiatrist Alec Roy, M.D. formerly of the NIAAA showed that compulsive gamblers have low levels of norepinephrine compared to normal gamblers.
The chemical is secreted from the brain when stressed, aroused or excited. A pathological gambler engages in his addiction to raise the levels of norepinephrine.
The findings reinforce the assertion of Dr. Henry Lesieur that pathological gamblers are “thrill seekers” who gamble for the excitement brought about by the game and not the pursuit of money.