Friday, February 13, 2009

Compulsive Gambling [Guest Post]

14 hours at the roulette wheel.

[Editors Note: Addiction Inbox has not covered the so-called behavioral or non-traditional addictions--Internet addiction, video game addiction, compulsive shopping and compulsive gambling--because I am not yet convinced that such behaviors show the same chemical and often inheritable propensities associated with alcoholism and other drug addictions. From time to time, however, I offer up an alternative view. The following excerpt has been taken from with the kind permission of the author.]

Guest Post by Leo Dirr

If you eat one meal a day and it's a buffet, you might be a compulsive gambler.

That odd, little nugget of wisdom dawned on me while I was wallowing in misery in front of an overloaded plate of tamales and tacos and taters and gravy. Gambler, me? A compulsive gambler? Hmmm.

I guess it takes one to know one. Yep. I had to lose thousands of dollars and countless hours of sleep before I could finally come to grips with my addiction. And at the buffet table, no less. At least the hot chocolate refills were free.

Oh, I had me some grand times. Vegas, Reno, Elko, Mesquite, Wendover. Nevada casino towns that called my name. I played roulette for up to 14 straight hours at a stretch. I never even left the table to take a leak.

I was too zoned in on the game. One time a busty babe sitting next to me at the blackjack table was literally rubbing her hands all over my body, and all I could think about was my next bet. Nothing personal. But while I was gambling, sex never crossed my mind.

As long as I had chips, nothing else mattered. I was completely in tune with my inner gambler. That sense of escapism must have been the draw, the thing that sucked me in again and again. It couldn't have been possible that I actually wanted to throw away all of my money.

Or did I? During my travels, I met a once-wealthy oil man who literally lost millions to the casinos. By the time I stumbled upon him, he was relying on the generosity of a well-heeled friend just to stay off the streets. His sad story did not save me.

I was hooked. I adored the casinos. The glitz of the lights, the sounds of the slots, the hope in the air. It all made me feel so alive.

Gambling thoughts monopolized my ADD-addled brain. Daily rituals that most people relish, or at least tolerate, were unbearably boring to me. The only excitement I could find was of the Ace-King kind. I used to calculate roulette payouts while I was brushing my teeth. It was bad.

Oh, I didn't always lose. Sometimes I won - and won big. But the casinos call their table areas "pits" for a reason. The more I won, the deeper my happy, little gambling hobby sank into a dark and dangerous compulsion.

I literally couldn't stay away. I always gave back everything I'd won, and then some. At one point, I was actually using my Nevada casino winnings to buy Idaho lottery tickets.

That sounds crazy, I know. But is it any crazier than eating all your meals at a buffet? Not really. The crazy part is that I don't really feel bad about any of it. I saw my share of weird things and weirder people along the way. And yes, I lost a ton of money.

But hey, what do you expect? I'm a compulsive gambler.

Some Sobering Statistics

* 15 million people display some sign of gambling addiction
* "Players" with household incomes under $10,000 bet nearly three times as much on lotteries as those with incomes over $50,000
* The average debt incurred by a male pathological gambler in the U.S. is between $55,000 and $90,000 (it is $15,000 for female gamblers)
* The suicide rate for pathological gamblers is twenty times higher than for non-gamblers (one in five attempts suicide)
* Sixty-five percent of pathological gamblers commit crimes to support their gambling habit


If you want to seek help, visit the National Council on Problem Gambling's Web site.

Photo Credit: Carroll College


Anonymous said...

I am absolutely convinced that gambling can be an addiction in the same way that drugs or alcohol can. But then, I'm not an expert or a scientist.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that the gambling indutry is still allowed to operate by the governments. In the UK, you can go and waste your money on machines on the hight street and it is almost unregulated. It is rather shocking and fucking up so many lives and households.

Dirk Hanson said...

I'm currently looking into the history of attempts by various nations at various time to tax or ban playing cards...

Anonymous said...

I hadn't seen this post when I e-mailed to ask your thoughts on internet addiction. Are you still considering whether 'behavioral' addictions should be included with 'traditional' ones? Marijuana is almost more behavioral than physically addictive. The clincher for me is that both types of addiction lead to negative consequences and both are successfully treated with 12-step programs.

Dirk Hanson said...

I have to say that I think gambling and compulsive shopping/shoplifting may soon be rightfully seen as genuinely addictive disorders. I'm becoming a convert on those two compulsive behaviors. But I think the jury is still out on "sex addiction." People are offering treatment for an addictive syndrome not sufficiently characterized in the clinical literature.

Anonymous said...

This will lead to a sad and unfulfilling life.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever thought about writing an e-book or guest authoring on other blogs?

Anonymous said...

By the way, how could we be in contact?

Dirk Hanson said...

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