Gambling Addiction and Its Behavioral Effects

Gambling addiction is a serious mental health disorder, which can be identified in two ways: a person either a) continuously bet on things using money or objects that hold value even though negative consequences arise as a result, or, b) they cannot stop gambling even if they desired to. People suffering from gambling addiction often display a strong urge to bet on a wide-range of gambling mediums-from sports games to poker, to choosing lottery numbers and throwing dice. And although friends and family members of compulsive gamblers don’t see the symptoms physically, like they often do with alcoholics or drug abusers, the consequences gambling addiction has serious implications on their lives as well as the lives of their friends and families. Not realizing its severity or taking it too lightly can be devastating for the addicted gambler in the long run. Gamblers can reach a point of literally losing everything, from cars, to homes, to businesses, and even respect from those they care about.

It’s well-known that Florida is notorious for providing “the hotspot” for gamblers all over the world, as well as its residents. But how many gamblers actually endure financial problems? A recent survey by the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling shed light on card playing, reporting that 70% of these people had trouble paying their bills. But here’s the worst part, which is known to be a side-effect of excessive gambling–1 in 3 of these card players admitted to having participated in illicit activities in order to finance their gambling. Playing cards isn’t as harmless as we thought; criminal activity is still a cause for concern.

Gambling addicts are not always obvious about their situation; sometimes they don’t even realize it themselves. They don’t dwell on what has been lost as a result of their destructive activities and behaviors. Instead, compulsive gamblers only focus on the gains, or the supposed investment aspect of the games they play. And unlike drug or alcohol addiction, a person addicted to gambling will not display symptoms such as heavy fatigue, sickness, loss of energy or dizziness; instead, other factors are apparent, such as falling into deep financial trouble, losing quality time with the ones they love, and heightening the chances of entering into drug or alcohol addiction.

It’s difficult to establish who has a gambling problem and who doesn’t. Where is the threshold between social gamblers, and abusive gamblers? Are there any red flags? The answer is yes. Pathological gamblers often display one or more of the following signs: negligent of family get-togethers, acts on criminal behavior in order to acquire more stuff to bet on, would rather gamble then hang out with friends, talk excessively about gambling and winning money, use drugs or alcohol to distract them from wanting to gamble more, become irritated when not gambling, neglect vital responsibilities for gambling time, and lying to family and friends about going out gambling. A combination of these signs should be a red flag when identifying a compulsive gambler. But remember, none of these signs mention the amount of times a person gambles in a period of time. It’s not about “quantity.” A person can gamble every day and it may not affect his life. Also, gambling addiction isn’t OK if you’re wealthy; rich gamblers can still have issues like neglecting their loved ones and other vital responsibilities.

Florida is well-known for its casinos, entertainment arenas and cruise ship gambling. But environmental factors such as these may cause people to be more susceptible to the development of gambling addiction. Gambling addiction isn’t a problem that stands alone-it may lead to criminal behavior, psychological distress and depression, and fuel other more dangerous addictions. As stated earlier, a person may fall into drug or alcohol addiction in order to supplement or replace their gambling behavior. The combination of multiple addictions can be devastating and more difficult to treat; it would be like tangling a web of loose strings and trying to unravel them all at once.

Addiction specialists and counselors use a variety of methods in treating gambling addiction effectively, including: helping the addict understand what drives him or her to gamble, replacing their betting habits with more productive activities, understanding how it affects the people they care about, and finally, strengthening one’s will to live a more productive lifestyle. If you notice warning signs that you or your loved one is suffering from gambling addiction, it is crucial to intervene and find treatment before it is too late. Doctors treat gambling addiction as a serious brain disease, and people suffering from it are also prone to drug addiction. The importance of acquiring immediate treatment can be the difference between losing everything, and saving someone’s life.

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Amino Acid Supplements Can Help Thwart Cravings to Treat Addictions

A small amino acid supplement, available to the public without a prescription, is becoming useful in the treatment of various numbers of complex illnesses and addictions. University of Minnesota (UM) scientists recently have reported that N-acetyl cysteine helps to control urges in compulsive gamblers.

Glutathione is a derivative of this molecule and serves as a powerful antioxidant known to shield cells and tissues from damage due to free radicals. In the central nervous system, particularly the brain, glutathione is believed to play a significant role in addictions involving gambling, food, or drugs.

In a UM trial conducted over a span of eight weeks, twenty-seven (27) volunteers were administered daily doses of N-acetyl cysteine. Toward the end of the trail, sixty percent of those volunteers displayed a decrease in the frequency and intensity of their gambling urges and lesser disruptions in their daily lives relative to those urges.

The 16 individuals who displayed positive behavior changes were then invited to partake in a subsequent six-week trial, where they were administered either the supplement or a placebo. None of the individuals knew which one they were getting. Three of the volunteers declined citing that they didn’t want to run the risk of relapsing after having discontinued the supplement.

Of the volunteers who partook and received the N-acetyl cysteine supplement, eight-three (83) percent reported lesser numbers of gambling urges. On the flipside, the seventy-two (72) percent who received placebo pills experienced relapses and returned to their old gambling habits.

There is no question that both trials were small and brief, but the results are significant. The findings concur with earlier reports that N-acetyl cysteine might be useful in treating psychological addictions. In 2002, scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina have shown that the dietary supplement helped lower cocaine cravings in laboratory rats.

Extensive cocaine use screws up normal glutathione regulation in the brain. When the individual quits using the drug, glutathione regulation decreases.

Minimal amounts of cocaine can produce huge surges in glutathione along with feelings of intense pleasure in persons addicted to the drug. A person taking N-acetyl cysteine can restore his glutathione levels back to normal and help prevent those levels from elevating following cocaine use.

Other research suggests that the dietary supplement may also be helpful in treating persons suffering from methamphetamine addiction.

Even though the use of N-acetyl cysteine in treating drug addictions is new, this amino acid has an established track record in the treatment of other condition such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose.

Too much acetaminophen can reduce glutathione levels in the body and promote liver damage or even death. If the amino acid is administered within thirty-six (36) hours of acetaminophen overdose, glutathione levels can be normalized thus helping to protect the liver from injury.

Studies have shown that this supplement can prevent kidney failure or damage. In a paper published by the New England Journal of Medicine, N-acetyl cysteine can shield the kidneys from the harmful effects of contrast dyes administered to patients prior to their radiographic procedures.

N-acetyl cysteine has been shown to be beneficial in people having cystic fibrosis. This precursor to glutathione helps to break up mucus formation and improve lung function.

Several other trials suggest that this amino acid can play a major role in the prevention of certain degenerative brain disorders by elevating glutathione levels. Patients with Parkinson’s disease are known to have less than normal glutathione levels in their central nervous system.

N-acetyl cysteine has also been shown to be helpful in the treatment of various infections such as influenza and AIDS. Research shows that when taken regularly, it lowers the severity of flu symptoms in adult individuals and can significantly improve immune functions in persons having the AIDS disease.

In studies conducted on laboratory animals, N-acetyl cysteine can be protective against a few carcinogenic agents. Laboratory rats administered with this supplement have demonstrated less lung damage when exposed to cigarette smoke and asbestos than rats that received no treatment at all.

N-acetyl cysteine is considered safe and effective in daily doses of 500 to 1,000 mg. There are very few side effects, but may involve mild abdominal cramping or bloating.

You can get N-acetyl cysteine anywhere that sells nutritional products. Even though this supplement requires no prescription to get it, it is always a good idea to check with your health care provider before taking this supplement to treat any specific condition.