Lottery fun or gambling addiction?

Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 11:04 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The lottery is just a game to some people. Others may even give tickets away in birthday cards or Christmas presents. So, when does the fun turn into a potential problem?

Addiction specialists will tell you that betting for fun can stimulate the brain’s reward system much like drugs or alcohol.

It’s when you win a little bit here and there that a pattern of addiction can begin.

Dr. Poorvanshi Alag specializes in Addiction Psychiatry at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center.

She says, “So you feel rewarded, and then you end up actually investing more, and then the cycle kind of continues, and this is not something which is always going to happen. And that’s when people start to like lose all the money. So yeah, lottery is definitely scary.”

Statistically, she says those who make less money tend to spend more on the lottery, but the wealthy fall victim, too, like a client of hers years ago, whose treatment ended abruptly.

She says, “Suicide risk is pretty high. It’s almost 20% compared to 5% in general population, for people who have problems with gambling.”

So how do you know if you might be on the road to a gambling addiction?

Dr. Alag says the list of behavioral clues is long, but you only need a few habits that persist for many months.

She explains, “You’re persistently gambling, even though you’re trying to like cut down on gambling. It’s really hard for you to cut back on it. You’re lying to your family members, or there’s a consequence wherein you’re losing your relationship or employment, financial problems.”

Sadly, she says, the problem may begin innocently at parties.

Dr. Alag explains, “Usually people start off on entertainment or on a recreational basis. Then what happens is they start actually investing it into gambling financially, and once they start losing money, start investing more, and that’s where the problem starts.”

There is treatment which can include medication and psychotherapy, but the hardest part is getting someone to know they need help.

Dr. Alag recommends an online screening provided by Gamblers Anonymous. She says anyone who gives a positive response to 7 or more questions should seek help: