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Explanatory essay of gambling addiction

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It’s a rush, putting money to the felt and threatening the cards to obey. Gambling is quickly becoming one of the favorite activities for many Americans. Where else could you have this kind of excitement with the potential to make money instead of lose it? Only amidst the flashing and heat of the casino lights can a person really let their money turn their brain into an emotional feeding frenzy. This rush, like any other high, has psychological and chemical impacts to a person. You could link gambling to any other drug that equates to the violent excitement. This is exactly what the brain does, represents an action with a feeling, and for many people these feelings become an addiction. Compulsive gambling is a serious affliction that affects many people.

While it may seem perverse to consider this a serious disease, realize that the consequences of compulsive gambling can dwarf that of any other addiction. For these people, once they start they just cannot stop, and like any addiction they build up a tolerance and experience symptoms of withdrawal when trying to abstain from gambling. For most people we can abide by certain guidelines, quell the whispers of our brain telling us to go for it and bet it all on this hand. What causes compulsive gamblers to lose control? There is no one reason to satisfy this question. However, with study patterns emerge, and we can recognize the psychological and chemical reasons for this handicap.

So why the rush when instead of betting five dollars this hand you bet twenty? It has to do with drugs; specifically those produced naturally by your brain, which affect mood, emotions, etc. A recent study found that “Hemodynamic responses in the sublenticular extended amygdala (SLEA) and orbital gyrus tracked the expected values of the prospects, and responses to the highest value set of outcomes increased monotonically with monetary value in the nucleus accumbens, SLEA, and hypothalamus.” (Breiter et al.) In this study, people were given $50 dollars and allowed to gamble with it while their responses were tracked. What the results basically said is that as the people’s expectancy of monetary gains went up, so did the chemical reactions in their bloods.

This chemical imbalance when gambling is possibly the reason why many people are unable to quit gambling. It is true that the symptoms of many compulsive gamblers are “equivalent to a drug-induced high.” (“Addictive Gambling”). Like addicts of any drug, compulsive gamblers show signs of withdrawal and tolerance. After you’ve been betting the same amount for some time on a simple wager without making much money, you will start to look for ways to increase the betting pleasure. A simple strategy to do this is simply to bet more! When more is on the line there is more risk involved and more excitement. Another way these people can increase the risk involved is by lowering the stakes. There’s nothing more exciting than hitting a long shot. Compulsive gamblers would rather get bigger odds by trying to win a 10% shot than win a small amount with a 90% chance of winning.

So as we have seen, the chemical attributes accompanying gambling can create an addiction, but the more interesting and relevant I think are the psychological impacts of gambling. By psychological impacts I mean how gambling affects the mind and actions of the compulsive gambler. This handicap is really defined as a “disorder of impulse control.” (Something 1). When most people go to gamble they bring with them rationality, and with rationality comes this innate ability to know when you’ve hit a limit. The disorder is the compulsive gambler’s inability to set a limit and stick to it. So you have to ask yourself where is the line drawn? When does fun gambling become a “maladaptive behavior?” The Washington State Council on Problem Gambling sees it as this:

“A. Persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

(1) Is preoccupied with gambling (e.g., preoccupied with reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble)

(2) Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement

(3) Has repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling

(4) Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling

(5) Gambles as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)

(6) After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses)

(7) Lies to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling

(8) Has committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance gambling

(9) Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling]

(10) Relies on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling.”

This list seems to be a slippery slope of symptoms. You might realize that this gambling can cause devastating effects to the life of a person. Committing crimes and trying to chase loses will cast a person into trenches of insurmountable debt and grief.

There are so many people who do go to casinos and don’t fall into debt. It makes you wonder what is different about these people that made them weak? Perhaps the answer is that “Addiction is a way to escape from reality, from something that is either too full of sadness (such as living in a violent family) or too devoid of joy (an emotionally hollow life). Emotional trauma in early life may be at the source of many addictions.” (“Addictive Gambling”). The reality of the world is overbearing sometimes, and thinking about spending millions of dollars in winnings in a fantasy life can help people escape. Whatever the reason it must be understood. Gambling will only continue to grow, and as fun as it is it must also come shackled with precaution.

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