Gambling and Your Mental Health

May is mental health awareness month. The association between poor mental health and problem gambling is not frequently addressed, so let’s talk about it.

First of all, not all gambling is problematic. Controlled gambling can be a source of entertainment or social activity. However, gambling can become an addiction that requires professional intervention with a focus on recovery. Millions of Americans, and their loved ones, are impacted by problem gambling.  The good news is that recovery resources are plentiful and widely available.

What are mental health risk factors for problem gambling?  Mental health challenges such as depression, substance abuse, and anxiety are often associated with problem gambling.  Additionally, those people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are also at elevated risk of developing a gambling addiction.

On the other hand, problem gambling can worsen or complicate mental health challenges.  Complications of problem gambling increase levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and even thoughts of self-harm and suicide. 

How do I know if I, or someone I care about, has problem gambling challenges?  Gambling can be an addiction, and those who suffer from it often attempt to hide the addiction.  Signs include preoccupation with gambling, irritability or restlessness when cutting down on gambling, chasing losses, asking for bailouts, and resorting to theft or fraud for gambling money. Similarly to those with substance addictions, people with a gambling addiction have difficulty cutting back or stopping.

How can I help?  Problem gambling addiction can happen to anyone.  It is not a financial issue, so providing funds or paying off debts will not aid in recovery.  A gambler must WANT help.  Assistance and resources are available on the web from the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling and mdproblemgambling.com, and by phone at 1-800-GAMBLER. These sites provide help for gamblers themselves, loved ones, treatment professionals, and clergy.

Gambling becomes problematic when it compromises personal relationships, work, and resource management.  Problem gambling can result in severe financial and personal loss.  If you or someone you know faces gambling challenges, know that help is available and recovery is achievable.

Opioid Awareness, Resources and Mental Health 

Editor’s Note: This post was written by our Family & Consumer Sciences intern, Caroline Triay, University of Maryland Communications major, Class of 2021

 

Drugs and pills on the table

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that drug overdose has become the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States. Over 70,000 people died in 2017, and nearly 50,000 of those deaths were because of opioid and prescription drug misuse. 

Many opioid addictions start at home. Leftover prescription pills and shared medicine cabinets can make these drugs easily accessible to the whole household.  

Not only does abusing opioid prescription drugs damage physical health, but it also takes a toll on mental wellbeing. Leaving mental health untreated when recovering from addiction can cause additional burdens on the abuser making the recovery process more painful. 

Opioid misuse is linked to anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. Opioids could also potentially become a gateway to other drugs such a heroin. Psycom shares helpful tips on spotting opioid addiction: 

  • Consuming opioid drugs for longer or larger amounts than prescribed
  • Spending prolonged time using or obtaining the drug
  • Craving opioids
  • Opioid use interferes with everyday routines such as school, work, or home life
  • Continuing to use drugs even if they strain relationships

Once it is clear that you or a loved one suffers from opioid addiction, immediate action should be taken to address the medical concerns that come with withdrawal. Because mental illness may arise in the recovery process of opioid abuse, it is necessary to strengthen wellbeing through additional programs. Psycom also includes effective treatment options that address mental illnesses that could develop. 

A woman taking medicine

  • Addiction and depression peer group support 
  • Intensive counseling
  • Additional medication for addiction and depression
  • Customized treatment plan
  • Family counselling

The opioid epidemic has become a serious and deadly problem in the United States. Know the addiction risks of taking opioids, and be cautious of taking medications, using them as prescribed by your doctor. Your physical and mental health are at stake. 

For more resources, or to learn more about how Extension is working to strengthen communities dealing with this issue, go to https://go.umd.edu/iiC.