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In Maryland, Gambling Addiction is Rampant; Treatment Options Lacking

In Maryland, Gambling Addiction is Rampant; Treatment Options Lacking

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Gambling can stimulate the brain’s rewards system much like drugs and alcohol can. Gambling addiction is a serious condition that can destroy lives. When gambling becomes addictive, it means you are willing to risk something in order to get something of even greater value. Sometimes this can mean straining relationships you have with your family and friends in order to satisfy the urge to gamble.

There is a state having a huge issue with gambling addiction and this time, it isn’t Nevada.  The tiny state of Maryland is home to one of the largest concentrated casino markets in the country. As gambling addiction continues to rise, few treatment centers options are available for resident causing their addiction to get worse.

In 2009, a state survey revealed that an estimated 150,000 residents suffer from moderate to severe gambling addiction. The state’s toll-free hotline for problem gambling has taken 619 calls in the past year from people struggling with compulsive gambling up. This number is up from 431 two years prior. Police were called on four different occasions on account of children and seniors being left unattended in cars while their parents or caregivers were inside gambling.

Clearly, the issue is increasing in severity every day. Over 893 problem gamblers, desperate to free themselves of their addiction, legally banned themselves from entering a casino through the state’s Voluntary Exclusion program. Casinos reported 37 people who were unable to follow through with the ban.

Unfortunately, there are no treatment options in Maryland to address gambling addiction. To make matters worse, most of these problem gamblers do not have health insurance or access to funds to cover private addiction treatment. The funds they could have used were gambled all away.

“When gamblers reach out to us, they’re in crisis … it’s out of control, they don’t have any money,” said Deborah Haskins, president of the Maryland Council on Problem Gambling. “When the person doesn’t have treatment as an option, it’s like you’re putting a brick wall in front of them. You’re commending them for taking the first steps, but then you have nothing else to provide them. It’s very frustrating.”

Each year, casinos in Maryland are required to contribute to the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that addresses problem gambling. The casino’s pay $425 per slot machine and $500 per table game each year. The funds only came to only $4 million last fiscal year. Most of the money ended up going to the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling. The program focuses on increasing the amount of gambling addiction counselors and running the addiction hotline, among other services, but it’s not used for actual treatment

Vegas Came To Maryland

So I’m writing this wondering how a state like Maryland ended up so massive on the casino bandwagon. Five years ago, Maryland had just opened its first casino. Since then, four more have debuted and a giant $1.3 billion resort casino, MGM National Harbor, is set to open next year.

From a financial standpoint, Maryland is cashing in big time. The state took in $1 billion in the last fiscal year. Out of that money, the state’s cut was $487 million and $388 was used for Maryland’s Education Trust Funds.

It’s clear the state made a worthwhile financial investment but the consequences for addiction are all too real.  Gambling is one of the most deceptive of all human vices. It presents the illusion of easy money but can quickly lead into financial ruin. The odds are never in your favor when the purpose of the system is to make a profit.

As a result of the financial stress gambling addiction results in, often gamblers turn to drugs, alcohol and other addictive behavior to alleviate the anxiety brought on by the gambling lifestyle. They may struggle with drug and alcohol addiction for the rest of their life after years of self-medicating to deal with the stress. The stress of it call can result in strained relationships and isolation.

Maryland’s economy continues to thrive from the casino industry however compulsive gamblers have to deal with the consequences of their actions. These consequences include everything from home foreclosure and bankruptcies to domestic abuse, robberies and embezzlement.

Gambling in America costs the United States between $32.4 billion to $53.8 billion per year. The long term costs outweigh the economic benefits by a greater than 3:1 ration. Maryland has a choice to progress toward providing treatment and solutions to the gambling addiction crisis before it gets out of control. The consequences could overpower the risks.

If you feel you are starting to develop an addiction to gambling, seek help before the addiction takes control of your life. Luckily, there is help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135


Addiction Brain Disease Theory Challenged by Legalizing Drugs

Addiction Brain Disease Theory Challenged by Legalizing Drugs

By Cheryl Steinberg

Considering that other countries, as well as some U.S. states where pot has been legalized, are seeing a decrease in crime and other problematic issues, what if more open drug use leads to fewer drug-related problems?

Our culture is one steeped in the belief that drugs are the enemy that we need to throw money and resources at, as implicated by our whole War on Drugs strategy. One that has been embedded in the minds of American citizens through media coverage, afterschool anti-drug specials, as well as in-school anti-drug programs like D.A.R.E. – which was found to be wholly ineffective.

Take alcohol, for example.

Currently, our cultural experience with drugs and addiction reflect our social history with alcohol. We know alcohol can be addictive and believe that alcoholism exists. We also know that most people can drink without becoming alcoholics, and we know that—at some point—most young people will choose to drink.

We live in a strangely inconsistent society. Alcohol is legal and so it is socially accepted that eventually most of us will drink and will enjoy drinking. And yet, we are preoccupied with the dangers of alcohol—one doesn’t have to look too far to see the prestige and acceptance in this country of Alcoholics Anonymous, which conveys the view that alcohol can be deadly and uncontrollable.

Young people get mixed messages on the issue of alcohol. Now, with the decriminalization of and in some areas, legalization of marijuana, it gets all the more confusing. Until recently, marijuana was illegal and we could safely declare to kids that it was unhealthy and bad. The acceptance of medical marijuana began to break down that stigma in this country.

Addiction Brain Disease Theory Challenged by Legalizing Drugs

In America, there is a rather confident assertion regarding substances – that “science that shows addiction, whether it’s of [sic] drugs or alcohol, significantly changes a person’s brain. These changes result in compulsive behaviors that weaken a person’s self-control, qualifying all of it as a complex, chronic brain disease.”

This is the “Addictive brain disease theory is expressed most forcefully by the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Nora Volkow.

And the results of America’s experiments in drug legalization are already starting to come in. And they disprove Dr. Volkow’s fears of drug use, which were initially spread throughout America following passage of the Harrison Act in 1914, which made drugs illegal.

In fact, the idea that drugs somehow make up a specific category of forbidden and uncontrollable substances because of their special addictive effects has been rejected by the very people who invented it. That is, the American Psychiatric Association Board of Trustees who hold the final approval for the criteria in the newest edition of the APA diagnostic manual (DSM-5), which does not describe drugs as addictive, but only in terms of a spectrum in severity of substance use disorders.

Surprisingly, there is only one thing that DSM-5 categorizes as addictive and that one thing is gambling. The DSM currently rejects the credibility of sex addiction while holding out for the possibility of adding video gaming, among others.

Legalizing Drugs: The Reality

American adults are flocking to Colorado to buy and consume marijuana. And they seem to be doing just fine. The worries people have touted regarding legalization are being proved to be unsubstantiated. One notable difference: traffic fatalities in Colorado are down, as is violent crime in Denver.

Let’s take a look at California where the results are even more interesting. In 2010 California decriminalized possession of marijuana and reduced the penalties to a small fine. As a report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice made clear, there are less young people and adults being arrested for drug charges. Other measures of youth health and non-criminality have also been positive: “Non-marijuana drug arrests for California youth, meanwhile, are also down 23%.” Drop-out rates have also dropped.

Using these findings, California, the most populous and diverse state in the nation, experimented further by passing Proposition 47 last November, which decriminalized possession of small amounts of cocaine, heroin, and meth.

The argument can now be made that dealing with drugs rationally, and not overstating their effects or prohibiting their use, is actually beneficial; even those who choose to use drugs are less likely to use them compulsively or to be overwhelmed by their use under this new approach.

The official medical approach in this country believes that there is something called “addiction caused by heroin and an unspecified number of other drugs.” Yet, American psychiatry, and most Americans, believes addiction is not limited to drugs. At the same time, we are accepting the idea of letting people decide for themselves whether or not to use drugs.

Learning from European Countries

A group of researchers called the European Comparative Alcohol Study (ECAS) conducted a study of alcohol consumption and problems across Europe and found an inverse relationship between alcohol-related social problems and the amount of alcohol consumed in a society.

That is, it found that heavier drinking countries, specifically those in Southern European, followed by Central and Northern European countries in order of national consumption levels—had fewer drinking problems. Remarkably, the heavier-drinking countries also had fewer alcohol-related deaths, which stem primarily from accidents and cirrhosis.

Substance Consumption: Addiction vs. Social-Control Model

These findings contradict the brain disease theory of alcoholism and addiction, which says that the greater the consumption, the more substance problems will occur.

There is an alternative theory, however, called the social-control model. According to this model, the greater the integration of a substance into a society, the fewer problems occur. When drinking is done in normal contexts—rather than in anti-social outbursts—it will be guided by social custom and norms.

With marijuana becoming ever more legal and socially acceptable, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Despite the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana in this country, marijuana addiction is a reality for some users. Just like there is alcoholism despite alcohol being legal and socially-acceptable, marijuana can pose a problem for some who may be inclined to abuse substances. If you’re having a hard time cutting back or stopping your marijuana use, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist.


Gaming Addiction is a Matter of Life and Death

 Gaming Addiction is a Matter of Life and Death

A 32-year-old man was found dead in an Internet cafe in Taiwan after a marathon three-day gaming binge, making this the island’s second death of an online gamer this year.

According to Jennifer Wu, a police spokesperson from the local precinct, the man entered the cafe in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city, on January 6.

An employee at the café found him motionless and sprawled on a table at 10 a.m. on January 8. He was then rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead from cardiac failure.

“He has been unemployed for a long time, and internet cafes were the only place he could go to,” she said.

“His family said he would disappear for two to three days on end.”

It is not known exactly how long the man lay dead in the Internet cafe but police said his body had entered rigor mortis, meaning that it had already begun to stiffen – an indication that he must have been dead for at least several hours before being noticed.

Police further added that gamers in the café continued playing their online games as if nothing had happened, even when the police and paramedics arrived.

Gaming Addiction is a Matter of Life and Death

“The CCTV footage from the Internet cafe showed that he had a small struggle before he collapsed motionless,” said Wu.

A police statement added that the cold temperatures and over-exhaustion from the long hours spent playing games likely contributed to the man’s cardiac arrest.

According to the Taipei Times, the man was a “regular customer” who often played for consecutive days.

“When tired, he would sleep face down on the table or doze off slumped in his chair,” the staff member was quoted as saying.

“That is why we were not aware of his condition in the beginning.”

Video Game Addiction Has Affected Others

Marathon sessions of online gaming in Taiwan have resulted in other deaths recently, too.

Similarly, a 38-year-old man was also found dead at an Internet cafe in Taipei on January 1 after playing video games for five days straight.

And previously, back in 2012, the dead body of man went unnoticed for 10 hours by other gamers and staff. The victim in this case had also died while playing online games for a marathon session.

Addiction can involve behaviors not related to taking drugs or drinking excessively. Many people struggle with obsessions to compulsively do things that affect them negatively, whether you’re addicted to the internet, gaming, gambling, sex, eating, or any other behavior that is causing problems in your life, such as destroying relationships, your health, or interfering with your job, please call us at toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist. This is someone who is trained and equipped to answer your questions. Often times, it’s someone who is in recovery from some form of addiction, themselves.  

Help for Gaming Addiction

Help for Gaming Addiction

Help for Gaming Addiction: What is Gaming Addiction?

Video game addiction is described as an excessive or compulsive use of computer games or video games, like online gaming, which interferes with a person’s everyday life. Video game addiction may present as compulsive game-playing that is paired with increased social isolation, mood swings, diminished imagination, and hyper-focus on in-game achievements, to the exclusion of other events in life.

Help for Gaming Addiction: It’s a Real Problem for Some

And, although some would disagree whether or not this is a real addiction, you can follow any kind of news trends and find instances that sound a lot like there really is such a thing as gaming addiction; cases such as people suffering exhaustion after playing video games for 50 hours straight, teens killing their parents for taking away their games, and parents neglecting infants while being mesmerized by the online world.

And now, more recently, cases in which people have died after online gaming binges: two such cases occurred already in 2015 (and we’re still in first month of the new year); the other of which occurred in 2012.

The medical community recognizes certain behaviors – not just the abuse of substances as many think – as addictive. According to psychiatrist Michael Brody, MD, the following are criteria for an addiction:

  • The person needs more and more of a substance or behavior to get through the day
  • If the person does not get more of the substance or behavior, they become irritable and miserable

Help for Gaming Addiction: Treatment

Similar to treatment for substance abuse and addiction, there are rehabilitation centers that offer programs for addictive behaviors such as gambling and online gaming. Rehabs that provide help for gaming addiction do this in several ways.

The first way that treatment helps is it separates the gamer from the materials they need in which to continue “using.” In this way, the process of breaking the cycle of gaming can begin. You will be in a comfortable and safe place where you will begin to heal from the obsession and compulsivity to get online and continue gaming.

The second way in which help for gaming addiction works is that it will offer you healthy coping tools for dealing with the behaviors that have come to control your life. Through group and individual therapy sessions, you will address the ways your gaming addiction has negatively impacted your life and learn to rebuild relationships, specifically, and a life anew, in general.

Individual therapy will allow you to speak one-on-one with a licensed therapist with whom you will formulate a treatment plan and set treatment goals that you want to accomplish while getting help for gaming addiction.

Group sessions are just as important to your rehabilitation. Peer support has been shown to be immensely beneficial to the client who wishes to get over their gaming addiction. This works in two ways: you will receive peer support and feedback as well as be able to give support and feedback, which will help you form connections for yourself when it comes to healing and recovering from your online gaming addiction or other video game addiction.

Do you experience obsessive thoughts and a compulsion to engage is certain behaviors? Has it made your life unmanageable – causing strained relationships, financial problems, and other negative consequences such as risks to your health? Do you feel irritable and moody when you try to stop? It might be time to seek professional help. Call an Addiction Specialist today at toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Study: Social Media Addiction and Substance Abuse Linked

Study: Social Media Addiction and Substance Abuse Linked

While you might think internet addiction and social media addiction are just the latest in trendy “news” and not really real problems, a new study shows that being addicted to social media is very much a thing, and it’s kissing cousins with substance abuse.

The reality is this: social media is a powerful behavioral conditioning tool that can cause its users to be more prone to other addictions.

Many social media users are probably aware by now of the feeling they get when they see a new notification: a “like” on a post or status, a shared post, or a new friend request. It’s addictive. And in fact, studies have shown that this feeling is very much due to the same process in the brain that drugs produce.

And because of this, a new study reveals, those who frequently use social media may be more susceptible to substance abuse disorders.

Study: Social Media Addiction and Substance Abuse Linked

Researchers conducted the study at the University of Albany, surveying a total of 253 undergraduate students about their social media habits, internet addiction, emotion regulation, and alcohol use.

What the researchers discovered was this: the usage of social media sites evoked a reward response, which is a powerful form of behavioral conditioning. Furthermore, those participants who were deemed addicted to social media were also more likely to experience substance addiction, as revealed by their alcohol use.

Leading the study was Julia Hormes, who said Facebook and other social media sites are especially addictive due to the way “rewards” are presented to the user, and because of the accessibility to new notifications.

“New notifications or the latest content on your newsfeed acts as a reward. Not being able to predict when new content is posted encourages us to check back frequently,” Hormes said.

“This uncertainty about when a new reward is available is known as a ‘variable interval schedule of reinforcement’ and is highly effective in establishing habitual behaviors that are resistant to extinction,” she continued. “Facebook is also making it easy for users to continuously be connected to its platform, for example by offering push notifications to mobile devices.”

Of the study’s findings, the 253 undergraduates spent almost 33% of their time surfing the web on checking Facebook, and 67% had push notifications enabled on their phones. Of the study’s 253 participants, about 10% experienced what researchers termed “disordered social media use,” which translates to an addiction to checking Facebook.

Disordered social media use, according to the study’s researchers, results from a poor ability to regulate emotion, which is linked to an increase in risk for substance addiction.

“Our findings suggest that disordered online social networking may arise as part of a cluster of risk factors that increase susceptibility to both substance and non-substance addictions,” Hormes said.

Although social media sites like Facebook clearly have addictive qualities, especially when it comes to the reward sensation from receiving “likes” and comments – particularly positive ones, it cannot be said definitively that having the habit frequently checking Facebook translates to having a full-blown addiction.

“The question of whether or not disordered online social networking use can be considered a ‘true’ addiction is a tough one,” Hormes said. “I think the answer really depends on your definition of ‘addiction.’ Many people think of addiction as involving ingested substances. However, if we think about addiction more broadly as involving some kind of reward then it is easier to see how behaviors may be addictive.”

Behavioral addictions, such as gambling, shopping, sex, and internet use, can be just as damaging to your life – taking its toll on relationships, work, and mental well-being. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse disorder or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

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