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Problem Gambling Month Officially Underway For 2020

While problem gambling is a perpetual issue, the National Council on Problem Gambling is celebrating Problem Gambling Awareness Month this March.

Today kicks off Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM), a national initiative focused on increasing awareness and screening.

“Problem Gambling Awareness Month (#PGAM) to raise awareness of the prevention, treatment and recovery services available to individuals adversely affected by gambling,” a PGAM’s press release noted. “(Participants) work collaboratively to publicize issues such as how to identify if someone has a gambling disorder, how to get help, and that treatment works – in short, that hope and help exist.”

The program is in its 18th year and operates under the umbrella of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). This year’s campaign has two specific goals:

  • Increase awareness of problem gambling
  • Increase awareness of prevention, treatment, and recovery options
  • Encourage screening for problem gambling

Definition and signs of problem gambling

Part of the PGAM awareness campaign focuses on helping people identify problem gambling. The organization clears up misconceptions, too.

First, the organization defines problem gambling as, “all gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits.”

Some classic signs of problem gambling are, according to NCPG:

  • Increasing preoccupation with gambling
  • Needs to bet more often
  • Gets irritable or restless when they try to stop
  • Keeps gambling amid serious negative consequences
  • Serious financial losses

Problem gambling goes beyond money

While problem gambling can create significant financial issues, NCPG noted that problem gambling isn’t only a financial problem.

Problem gambling is an emotional problem that has financial consequences,” NCPG pointed out. “If you pay all the debts of a person affected by problem gambling, the person still has a gambling problem or gambling disorder.”

Solving the financial issue doesn’t cure the root cause: “An uncontrollable obsession with gambling.”

Addictions aren’t limited to substances

At times, the public has a hard time understanding that gambling can create an addiction that’s just as serious as an addiction to drugs or alcohol. And, like addictions to drugs or alcohol, a problem gambler builds up a tolerance.

“A person with gambling problems finds that it takes more and more of the gambling experience to achieve the same effect as before,” NCPG’s FAQs note. “This creates an increased urge for the activity and the person finds that they have less and less ability to resist as the craving grows in intensity and frequency.”

Screening Day scheduled for March 10

The NCPG is promoting a national screening day on March 10. The organization is partnering with the Cambridge Health Alliance Division on Addiction (CHADA).

Healthcare providers can use the NCPG’s Screening Day Toolkit for their screenings.

The actual screening the NCPG is promoting is known as the “brief biosocial gambling screen” (BBGS).

The BBGS’s strength is that it examines three areas of addiction that relate to gambling: neuroadaptation, psychosocial characteristics, and social consequences.

“The BBGS is practical for clinical application because it uses only 3 items and they are easy to ask, answer, and include in all modes of interviewing, including self-administered surveys,” the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry notes.

Sports bettors more likely to be problem gamblers

The NCPG notes that sports gamblers are twice as likely to experience gambling problems.

“When sports gambling is conducted online, the rate of problems is even higher, with one study of online sports gamblers indicating that 16% met clinical criteria for gambling disorder and another 13% showed some signs of gambling problems,” the group noted in an executive summary.

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