Combatting Gambling and Alcohol Addiction

Jun 30, 2023

The Relationship Between Alcoholism And Gambling Addiction

By the numbers, gamblers have an alcohol addiction rate of 73%, it is safe to say that these two addictions are closely related.  In some cases alcohol abuse occurs before a gambling addiction, and in many cases prolongs the gambling addiction. This connection between alcoholism and compulsive gambling is called comorbidity or a co-occurring disorder, previously it was referred to as a dual diagnosis.

Similarities Between Alcoholism And Gambling Addiction

Alcoholism and gambling addiction are two of the most common types of addictions. They share many similarities in terms of their development, symptoms, and the treatment approaches used to address them. 

Causes: The Brain and Addiction

When a person engages in gambling behavior their brain releases dopamine, similar to when a person drinks. 

Alcohol and gambling addictions can have detrimental effects on the brain, leading to long-lasting consequences. Research has shown that chronic alcohol consumption disrupts the brain's reward system and impairs cognitive functions. The neurotransmitter dopamine plays a crucial role in addiction, and alcohol consumption alters its release and reuptake, affecting motivation and decision-making. Studies have also linked alcohol addiction to structural changes in the brain, such as reduced gray matter volume and impaired white matter integrity. Similarly, gambling addiction has been associated with alterations in brain regions involved in reward processing and decision-making, including the prefrontal cortex and striatum. These findings highlight the neurobiological underpinnings of addiction and emphasize the need for effective interventions. 

What Is Gambling Addiction?

A gambling addiction is defined as the overwhelming and often uncontrollable urge to gamble despite the consequences. Like substance abuse addiction, gambling stimulates the reward system of the brain and leads to addiction. In some cases medication can even cause a gambling addiction

What is Alcoholism?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) has similar markers as gambling addiction. AUD is the inability to stop or limit drinking despite negative effects. Often AUD is simply referred to as alcoholism. It’s estimated that about 13.8% of the population meets the clinical definition of an alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

Symptoms of alcoholism have strong overlap to gambling symptoms. Some signs of an alcohol use disorder are:

  • Cravings: Strong and uncontrollable urges to drink alcohol, often leading to frequent consumption.

  • Loss of Control: Difficulty limiting or controlling the amount of alcohol consumed, leading to excessive drinking episodes or an inability to stop drinking once started.

  • Tolerance: Needing to drink larger amounts of alcohol over time to achieve the desired effect or experiencing reduced effects from the same amount of alcohol.

  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Experiencing physical or psychological symptoms when attempting to cut down or stop drinking, such as tremors, anxiety, irritability, sweating, nausea, insomnia, or even seizures in severe cases.

  • Neglecting Responsibilities: Neglecting or abandoning work, school, or family obligations due to alcohol use, as drinking takes precedence over other important aspects of life.

  • Loss of Interest: Losing interest in activities or hobbies that were previously enjoyable in favor of drinking alcohol.

  • Increased Time Spent Drinking: Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, consuming, or recovering from the effects of alcohol, which may lead to neglecting other important activities or relationships.

  • Continued Use Despite Negative Consequences: Persisting in alcohol use despite experiencing adverse effects on physical health, mental well-being, relationships, or legal issues.

  • Relationship Problems: Alcohol-related conflicts or breakdowns in personal relationships, such as arguments with family members, friends, or partners due to drinking.

  • Neglected Appearance and Hygiene: Disregarding personal grooming or neglecting physical appearance due to alcohol consumption.

  • Drinking Alone or in Secret: Hiding or isolating oneself to consume alcohol, or regularly drinking alone to avoid judgment or confrontation from others.

  • Increased Risky Behavior: Engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence of alcohol, such as drunk driving, unprotected sex, or participating in dangerous activities.

  • Financial Difficulties: Experiencing financial problems or difficulties due to spending excessive amounts of money on alcohol or related expenses.

  • Physical Health Problems: Developing health issues as a result of long-term alcohol abuse, including liver damage, heart problems, gastrointestinal disorders, weakened immune system, and neurological complications.

  • Emotional Distress: Experiencing mood swings, depression, anxiety, or other emotional disturbances that are either caused by or exacerbated by alcohol use.

It's important to note that experiencing one or more of these symptoms does not automatically indicate alcoholism, but they can be warning signs that warrant further evaluation and, if necessary, professional help.

Will Your Insurance Cover Treatment?

If you have insurance you may want to call your provider or check their website to determine if you are covered for treatment. In many cases, treatment is covered after a copay or deductible is met. Companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield do provide treatment options. Additionally, a treatment provider will help you understand your insurance benefits. 

If you don’t have insurance, there are alternate ways to pay for treatment that a provider can explore with you. 

Recovering From Alcoholism And Gambling Addiction

If you find yourself struggling with gambling and alcohol addiction, seeking help for treatment is crucial for your well-being and recovery. These addictions can have devastating consequences, affecting not only your finances and relationships but also your mental and physical health.

Finding assistance from professionals trained in addiction treatment can provide you with the necessary support and guidance to overcome these challenges. They can help you understand the underlying causes of your addictions, develop coping strategies, and provide tools to resist the urge to gamble or drink excessively. Finding a therapist that specializes in co-occurring disorders is key to effectively treating both disorders 

By reaching out for help, you can access a range of resources such as therapy, counseling, support groups, and medication if necessary. These interventions can assist you in breaking the cycle of addiction and regaining control over your life. Moreover, a supportive network of individuals who understand your struggles can offer empathy and encouragement throughout your recovery journey.

Remember, overcoming gambling and alcohol addiction is not a solo endeavor. Seeking professional help can provide you with the necessary tools and support to reclaim a healthier, happier life free from the shackles of addiction.


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