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Your Healthy Family: Gambling addiction ahead of Super Bowl

Posted at 6:44 AM, Feb 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-10 06:44:09-05

With the Super Bowl coming up, we are inundated with the opportunity to place a few bets. For some, it seems harmless; you're caught up in the excitement of the game. But addiction specialists warn, that’s the very high that can draw you in and then create a problem.

Who will win the big game? By how much? Who wins the coin toss? Who scores first? What color will the Gatorade bath be?

Its all in good fun, and if you're already smiling and guessing orange or red, you're already having a neurologic reaction.

“It does alter brain chemistry. There's an important thing called dopamine. We call it 'dopamine hits.' For some folks they're extra sensitive to addictive qualities of gambling," Dr. Gregg Jantz, an addiction specialist, said.

He said studies show the high from gambling rivals the brain’s reaction to doing drugs. But with gambling, even when you lose, the dopamine release is strong because of the risk anticipation.

“'Yeah, I know I have some debt here, but my win is coming, you just wait. My win is coming,'” Dr. Jantz said.

And the withdrawal when you stop can be as bad as any drug addict, physically and mentally.

“You have depression, high anxiety. We know gambling addiction has some of the highest suicide rates," he said.

He said addiction specialists have seen more patients than ever since the pandemic, including sports betting online. More time at home means more need for distraction. It always starts innocently enough.

“It's normalized, so it's like no big deal. 'Every body's doing it,' but the reality is, it can be exceedingly addictive. And it can destroy lives," Dr. Jantz said.

Which is why he said it's better not to start at all.

Some red flags to watch out for:

  • Lying about gambling, or denial
  • Borrowing money to gamble
  • Increased financial issues
  • The gambling causing problems in relationships
  • Losing time at work or home because of gambling

If you or someone you know is struggling with gambling addiction, there is help out there. You can call the David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health at any time at (239) 455-8500.