Gambling: from recreational to problem addiction
MUSKOKA – What starts off as a harmless, recreational pastime can often turn into a life-altering addiction for gamblers. Addiction Outreach Muskoka Parry Sound is working with the Responsible Gambling Council this week to raise awareness and offer help to those fighting what may seem like a losing battle against their gambling addiction.
Problem Gambling Prevention Week, Oct. 15 to 19, focuses on the risks of problem gambling.
“It is important to raise awareness to the issue of problem gambling, as it is often an issue that people struggle with and have difficulty knowing when or where to get help,” said Kat Johnson of Addiction Outreach Muskoka Parry Sound. “Because of the stigma attached to the word ‘addiction’ people oftentimes hesitate to identify themselves as an addict needing help. Problem Gambling Prevention Week is an excellent opportunity to bring education and awareness to our communities to help people in our communities who are or may at some point in the future struggle with problem gambling.”
Johnson said when gambling takes over someone’s life it can affect all aspects from their physical and mental health to family life, work and their finances.
“Gambling is so prevalent in our society that many ‘average people’ participate regularly, whether it be lotto tickets at the corner store, trips to the casino, TV bingo, a raffle ticket, or a friendly bet with friends,” said Johnson. “Most people can casually participate in these sorts of activities as a form of recreation or entertainment. Unfortunately for some of these folks, this casual activity can lead to harmful involvement.”
People addicted to gambling tend to become irritable, defensive, and secretive and begin to lose interest in personal relationships, she said.
“Gambling becomes a problem when it interferes with work, school or other activities, leads to emotional or physical health problems, causes financial issues, harms the family or other relationships. Essentially problem gambling is when gambling is no longer fun,” said Johnson.
During Problem Gambling Week the organization is offering information and educational sessions to those wanting to learn more. On Oct. 18, there will be representatives at Huntsville Place Mall from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2 the organization will be hosting treatment programs for both individuals and families.
“Gambling, like all addictions, does not discriminate. It can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, background, or socioeconomic factors,” said Johnson. “It is very important for people to be aware of the potential to develop a problem. It is important to be educated and informed in order to participate in gambling activities responsibly. It is easy to get carried away by the excitement and thrill of gambling and be tempted by the thought of a ‘big win.’ Setting a limit and sticking to it is important.”
People who think they may be struggling with a gambling addiction are encouraged to contact Addiction Outreach Muskoka Parry Sound at 705-645-1311 or the Ontario Problem Gambling Hotline at 1-800-230-3505.
Addiction Outreach also offers online resources, including self-assessment at www.aomps.com.
“If you ever feel that gambling is becoming a problem, be sure to seek help, seek out counseling, attend support groups, change friends if necessary and set clear boundaries, with yourself and others,” Johnson said.