November 1, 2014

Innocent for most, gambling can become a real problem (AUDIO)

Gambling often is an innocent, recreational activity. But, sometimes it can become a problem.

Sometimes gambling becomes even more than a problem. It becomes a compulsion, an obsession.

State Director of the Division of Behavioral Health, Scot Adams, says problem gamblers can cause a severe strain on their family.

“Some recent data indicate that the load of gambling debt that the people in treatment services are carrying is in excess of $20,000,” Adams tells Nebraska Radio Network. “That’s a serious number and it represents more than half of their annual income as a matter of fact for most of those folks.”

Treatment is available for those who struggle with an addiction to gambling. Adams says national statistics indicate that 3% of the population have a gambling addiction of some sort, which would total about 42,000 people in Nebraska.

The Division of Behavioral Health supports a statewide Problem Gambling Helpline, available at all times to provide support and referral to programs. The Helpline number is 1-800-GAMBLER or 1-800-426-2537. More resources can be found at the Department of Health and Human Services website: dhhs.ne.gov/networkofcare.

A wide range of treatment is available, including intervention, individual counseling, group therapy and family counseling.

The Gamblers Assistance Program run by the division provides funding for the helpline, treatment services, prevention and outreach services and counselor training. Funding from the state Lottery and the Health Care Cash Fund pay for the program, which isn’t funded through tax dollars.

The division provides a list of possible signs of problem gambling:

· Becoming defensive if someone expresses concern about their gambling habits;

· Borrowing money, selling belongings, or stealing so that they can continue to gamble;

· Feeling anxious or depressed when they are unable to gamble;

· Increased frequency of gambling activity;

· Lying about the amount of time being spent on gambling, how much they are betting, and how much they have lost;

· Placing larger bets over time whether winning or losing;

· Betting more than they can reasonably afford to lose; and

· Taking time away from work or family life to gamble; not telling others about time spent gambling.

Adams encourages those who have suffered from out-of-control gambling, their friends or family members to seek help. He says it is effective.

“This is by no means an end-of-the-road kind of diagnosis or that kind of thing,” Adams says.“It is serious, but there is lots of hope.”

AUDIO: Brent Martin interviews State Director of the Division of Behavioral Health Scot Adams about problem gambling. [8 min.]

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]