What is Gambling Addiction?

The seventh DCI Miller book Nothing To Lose delves into the very distressing world of gambling addiction. Anybody who knows what a destructive and painful issue this is will not need any proof or evidence of the devastating side-effects gambling can have on people when it strays from being a harmless pastime into something which takes over your entire life. This is a powerful addiction which doesn’t just affect those who fall unwittingly into the trap, it affects everybody who loves them too.

When I was thinking about writing a story which really explained how quick and easy it was to become a full-blown gambling addict, I received a few dismissive comments from people who had no understanding or experience of the problem. The comments were along the lines of “gambling addiction? Huh, whatever next!?” It was this reaction that further motivated me to pursue the idea of writing a story which centred around the problem and I actually compiled a few of those “real-life” remarks and inserted them into the story, so thanks guys! I found it fascinating that some people were so fast to dismiss it so quickly, whilst admittedly having no understanding of what a massive issue this is, one which affects millions of people, one way or another. If somebody said that they had a drink problem, or a drug habit, I doubt they’d encounter such a dismissive reaction. I wanted to know why people couldn’t accept that this is no different to a heroin addiction.

We are all familiar with the government health warnings regarding Gambling, the “When the fun stops, stop” posters and fast-reads on the end of adverts which promise such fun. These health warnings exist for a very good reason, the UK is in the middle of a gambling epidemic. The bookmakers are usually the only shops left on the decaying precincts and high streets of Britain’s most impoverished towns, after the off-licences of course. There is a very good reason for this, the bookies know that the poorest people are the easiest to attract into their shops and onto their websites with promises of a quick answer to all of their money and esteem problems. People with little or no money are the ones who are keen to find escapism from their problems, hence the off-licences and bookies. I decided to look into this in detail and I quickly realised the sheer scale of the problem and how quick and easy it is to become entrapped by the nightmare of gambling addiction. More disturbing was the realisation that the gambling companies couldn’t really give a fart about the damage that their products are doing to people, their families, their lives. It was a sobering experience, and one which left me wondering how it was possible, let alone legal – to actively encourage people to develop a full-blown gambling habit. If only it was as easy to shake one off. I was shocked to learn that there are hundreds of support groups, all run by charities and that their numbers are increasing week on week, as people finally come to terms with the problems that they had previously been in denial of. I wondered what had been that final straw that had inspired them to seek help and support.

As I mentioned, the reaction to the problem is usually one of complete dismissal. This has got to stop. If you know somebody who is suffering from this overwhelming problem, the last thing you should be saying is “stop doing it” or “why the flipping heck have you done that?” The people who are tackling this problem really need your hugs, your understanding and your love. They feel a lot worse about this than they might be prepared to show. They feel confused and ashamed and they genuinely do not know why they are doing it, they’re not just trying to fob you off. It might be your son or daughter, your husband or brother, it could be your dad. The fastest way to help them to continue on this destructive path is to call them names or dismiss what they’ve done, regardless of how frustrated, devastated and furious you might be feeling. Because here’s the thing – gambling isn’t addictive because it makes its victims feel so worthless and bewildered. It’s addictive because the person doing it gets the biggest buzz of their lives while they are gambling. It’s because the brain receives a massive dose of dopamine and adrenaline in one almighty hit, which basically feels ten times more intense than when you step off the biggest, fastest, scariest roller-coaster ride at the theme park. This is what a gambling addict is interested in, not the lost wages, the arguments and the feelings of hopelessness which follow. This overwhelming chemical reaction in the brain is highly addictive, and that’s the problem.

If you or anybody you know is going through this first-hand, or you are sitting on the sidelines as a worried family member, please remember that there is support available. Lots of support. Because this is a big problem, and you are not alone. Talking to somebody who really understands what you are experiencing is a huge help, so please take that step today. This can be beaten, but it starts with understanding what a complex problem you are dealing with.

Organisations that provide help and advice on gambling matters
BeGambleAware.orgA website that gives advice on gambling responsibly – this means making choices based on all the facts, and staying in control of how much time and money you spend.
Problem gambling
Central and North West London NHS Foundation TrustTel: 020 7534   6699 / 6687Treats problem gamblers in England and Wales who are aged 16 and over. It assesses the needs of problem gamblers as well as those of their partners and family members, and offers evidence based treatments as well as interventions to assist with financial, employment, social and relationship difficulties.
The Christian Centre for Gambling RehabilitationA Chinese Christian charity established in 1996 that helps mainly Chinese-speaking problem gamblers to stop gambling and recover from their addiction and its adverse effects. They provide information, advice and support services which include counselling, money advice and group meetings to pathological gamblers and their relatives and friends.
Count Me OutA not for profit social enterprise that aims to help vulnerable children and adults who are addicted to, harmed or exploited by gambling by promoting self-exclusion and social responsibility.
Gam-AnonSupport to those affected by another person’s gambling. A fellowship of men and women who are husbands, wives, relatives or close friends who have been affected by problem gambling.
Gamblers Anonymous
National helpline number:
02073 843040
A fellowship of men and women who have joined together to do something about their own gambling problem and to help other compulsive gamblers do the same.
GambanGamban is an easy to use application which blocks online gambling on all installed devices. It is available across all platforms and helps people who want to stop gambling from accessing gambling sites and apps.
GamblockGamblock helps prevent gambling sites running on your PC. Once downloaded, users are directed to the GamBlock website when trying to access a gambling website. The GamBlock website also provides advice to people who have problems controlling their gambling.
National helpline number:
0808 8020133
A registered charity that takes a non-judgemental approach to gambling, and a leading authority on the provision of information, advice and practical help in addressing the social impact of gambling.
Gordon Moody AssociationTel: 01384 241292Provides residential treatment for severely addicted gamblers, as well as providing outreach support and internet counselling service.
Consumer support
Citizens AdviceHelps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free information and advice, and by influencing policymakers.
Debt support organisations
Money Advice ServiceAn independent service, set up by government, to help people manage their money.
Debt Advice FoundationA UK debt advice charity offering free, confidential support and advice to anyone worried about debt.
Debt Support Trust
Tel: 0800 058 0226
A not for profit debt charity with trained, friendly debt advisors ready to advise you on available debt solutions.
National Debtline
National helpline number: 08088 084000
Provides free confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems.
StepChange Debt CharityTel:  0800 138 1111A debt advice organisation offering free, confidential and impartial debt help to anyone who needs it, available online 24 hours a day.
Other support organisations
Action for ChildrenHelps children achieve their full potential, through services that support some of the most vulnerable and excluded children in the UK.
Counselling DirectoryProvides a counselling support network, enabling those in distress to find a counsellor close to them and appropriate for their needs.
UK helpline number:
116 123
A 24 hours a day service providing confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide.

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