March marks Problem Gambling Awareness Month

WARREN — March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Beacon Light’s Addiction Prevention Department is joining the conversation to bring help and hope to problem gamblers.

National Gambling Awareness is a grassroots effort that brings together a wide-range of stakeholders: public health organizations, advocacy groups and gambling operators who work collaboratively to let people know that hope and help exist.

The impact of problem gambling extends beyond the gambler; affecting families, friends and entire communities. For the 19th year Beacon Light Prevention Department, in collaboration with the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), are dedicating the month of March to helping people. The campaign theme “Awareness + Action” is all about taking specific action and having conversations about problem gambling issues and directing people to the help they need.

Approximately 2 million U.S. adults (1% of the population) are estimated to meet the criteria for gambling disorder. Another 4-6 million (2-3%) are considered to meet criteria for problem gambling.

Problem Gambling for adults isn’t always easy to recognize. Problem gamblers often live in denial and are skilled at hiding their activity. However, if one looks closely they may begin to see the red flags such as changes in personality, increased credit card bills and money or valuables mysteriously disappearing.

Anyone who is concerned that someone they know has a gambling problem, the following are some common warning signs:

• Constantly talking about gambling

• Becoming secretive about money and finances

• Becoming increasingly defensive about gambling activity

• Gambling instead of spending time with family

• Becoming increasingly desperate for money to fund gambling

• Neglecting family or household responsibilities

• Always planning holidays/vacations where gambling is available.

And, for many residents of the U.S. gambling remains a hidden addiction. That makes it so important to have the conversation to raise awareness and create action.

Approximately 4-5% of young people ages 12-17 meet one or more of the criteria of having a gambling problem. Another 10-14% are at risk of developing an addiction, which means that they may already show signs of losing control over their gambling behavior. Teens that are developing a gambling problem are growing at twice that rate. There are numerous ways teens gamble, from making wages on local sports events to more than 3,000 internet gambling sites. Teens who gamble have higher rates of alcohol-binge drinking, suicidal thoughts and attempts, school problems, depression, family problems, peer relation problems, legal and money problems, and dissociative “escape” behaviors. This is why the community needs to understand the symptoms and risks associated with addiction.

Problem gambling is not the result of irresponsible or weak-willed people. Many people who develop a problem with gambling have been viewed as responsible and strong individuals. The cause of a gambling problem is the individuals’ inability to control gambling. This may be based in part on a person’s genetic tendency to develop an addiction or their ability to cope with normal life stressors.

Gambling is the primary form of entertainment in the U.S. and the purpose of this initiative is not to criticize gambling in its many forms; the purpose is to raise awareness of what problem gambling looks like and to help those people who are struggling with this addiction find the support that they need.

Often gambling addiction is a silent struggle for people. On the outside, there are no physical symptoms like other substance addictions such as red eyes, smell of alcohol, etc. But the results to the person with a gambling problem run at high risk for financial distress or ruin, depression, stress related health problems and suicide. Many times people with gambling addictions are able to hide their struggles from everyone, including those people living in their household.

Using the social media tagline #AwarenessPlusAction or Problem Gambling Awareness Month (#PGAM2021) is designed to help raise awareness of the prevention, treatment and recovery services available for those adversely affected by gambling. This grassroots campaign brings together a wide-range of stakeholders, including public health organizations, treatment providers, advocacy groups and gambling operators. They work collaboratively to let people know that hope and help exist.

To get help for a gambling problem, an individual or a loved one can call the National Council on Problem Gambling at 1-800-522-4700. The call is free and confidential. For more information about problem gambling and how to have that conversation go to www.ncpg.org/chat or locally call Beacon Light Behavioral Health Prevention Department at 814-584-1140 ext. 1183.

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