Gambling addictions only affect a small minority of the population whose compulsions should not affect the millions of responsible gamblers. Gambling addictions may increase because of the detached gambling environment on the Internet. The Internet provides a detached gambling atmosphere because there is no tangible representation of money, such as chips, being won or lost over the Internet. As a result, gamblers may lose track of how much money is being won or lost and may gamble beyond their means.
Compulsive gamblers often lose their life savings, homes, businesses, families, friends, and more as they are driven by their addiction. They often steal from those they love. Compulsive gambling is not as well recognized as other addictions such as drugs, alcohol and smoking, yet gambling opportunities continues to grow. With the rapid development of new media, such as the Internet and interactive TV, the addiction is likely to become more widespread and affect many more individuals than it does so already. Compulsive gamblers picture themselves leading a pleasant gracious life, made possible by the huge sums of money they will accrue from their ‘system’. Servants, penthouses, nice clothes, charming friends, yachts, and world tours are a few of the wonderful things that are just around the corner after a big win is finally made.
Problem gambling is an issue that affects all ages, genders, ethnicities and races. However, new immigrants may have specific risk factors that may make them more vulnerable to developing problems if they gamble.
Pathologic gambling and problem gambling affect approximately 5 to 15 million Americans and are common in young people. The community-minded family physician is in a good position to identify and assist patients who have gambling-related problems and thereby prevent or treat the resultant personal, family and social disruptions. Pathological gambling, as it is sometimes called, occurs in 1 to 2 percent of the adult population in the United States, while the rates climb to 4 to 8 percent for college students. Arnie Wexler, a recovering compulsive gambler, hasn’t placed a bet since 1968.
By David Hobson
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