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How to Identify a Gambling Addiction

For many people, buying lottery tickets, betting on horses, playing cards for money or feeding slot machines is nothing more than a fun pastime.

But for some people, gambling games can become an uncontrollable and necessary part of life. In these cases, the need to gamble can turn into an addiction known clinically as pathological gambling. The key to overcoming gambling addiction is to identify the problem and find help.

Recognize the symptoms

You might have a gambling problem if you have the following symptoms:

  • You gamble because you’re bored or alone.
  • You constantly think about gambling, and you want to play to win money.
  • You want to gamble more, and you dedicate more time to gambling than anything else in your life.
  • You spend most of your money, and you have trouble paying your bills.
  • You feel guilty after gambling, but you don’t stop doing it.
  • You lie to your friends about your habit because you feel embarrassed by it.
  • Gambling interferes with your work, and it causes problems with family and friends.  

Look for help

If not treated, a gambling addiction can lead to anxiety, stress and depression.

If you think you have a problem, reach out to a trusted family member or friend, and seek help from a therapist. You can also attend recovery programs that offer group sessions or individual treatment.

There are nonprofit organizations that specialize in helping people with their gambling problem. Gamblers Anonymous and the National Council on Problem Gambling are good resources and have hotlines all over the United States. If you need immediate help, you can call the national hotline 24 hours a day at 1-800-522-4700.

Read this post in Spanish.

Brain Research Shows how Nicotine can be a Gateway Drug

Over 90 percent of adult cocaine users between the ages of 18 and 34 report that they smoked cigarettes before using cocaine. This led scientists to wonder if nicotine changes our brains by making them more sensitive to cocaine and other illicit drugs.

A recent study in mice showed that nicotine had an effect on certain genes in the brain that could make them more susceptible to cocaine addiction.

When exposed to nicotine those genes worked harder, making it easier for the brain to become addicted to cocaine. The effect only happened to mice brains exposed to nicotine before cocaine, and not the other way around. The research suggests that reducing smoking in young people may help reduce the risk of later cocaine abuse and addiction.

To read more about this research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), visit the NIH Research Matters Blog.