Dr. Kenneth Blum. PhD, the eminent scientist who first dicovered the link between genetics and addiction in 1990, has long held that gambling is a Reward Deficiency Symptom. Now, in February 2010, Join Together explained that for the first time, gambling will have its own category in the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: behavioral addiction. (The DSM is the "Bible" for the medical industry and required when providers bill insurance companies.)
However, when you start reading about gambling, some of the differences between problem gambling and substance abuse or dependence are striking. For example, medicinenet.com says that people who take medications for Parkinson's disease or restless leg syndrome have developed compulsive gambling. Who’d have thought it? Also, that risk factors for a gambling addiction include antisocial personality disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and cocaine or alcohol addiction.
But there’s a lot that’s similar about gambling and substance abuse, too. People can lose jobs and money as a result of gambling as they can with the other activities. Just as there are numerous addictive drugs, there are also many ways to engage in gambling, from casino games and slot machines, to monthly poker games, to lottery tickets. And then there’s horse racing and jail-alai and the office football pool. Internet gambling has exacerbated the problem.
According to SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2004, at least 30 states provided services for gambling addiction. But as states are dealing with budget woes, addiction services are being cut. The New York Times reported that Nevada, for one, has proposed cutting financing, which doesn’t seem propitious when the state is the country’s gambling capital.
We may all know people who looked to gambling when they were desperate financially, in the hope of making a quick buck. And in these down times, a lot of people are tense about money. It’s not a time to cut gambling treatment programs.