Addiction Recovery

The Relationship Between Addiction and Gambling

Struggling with any addiction can be isolating – especially when it’s combined with another addiction or mental disorder. Learn more in our blog.

The Relationship Between Addiction and Gambling

Table of Contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

July 28, 2022

The Edge Treatment Center

The comorbidity between substance use disorder (SUD) and gambling addiction has been garnering more attention in recent years due in part to the fact that the numbers for both of these addictions have been growing.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) national survey on drug use and health (NSDUH) stated that about 8 million American adults have co-existing disorders, also known as a dual diagnosis.

According to the National Library of Medicine, gambling disorders affect 0.2-5.3% of adults worldwide. 

Just as some people are able to consume alcohol in moderation while others become addicted, some adults are able to gamble as a form of innocent entertainment while for others, gambling becomes a compulsion. The relationship between these two addictions is strong, but there are ways to treat both.

What Is Gambling? 

Gambling requires three things—consideration, risk, and a prize. To gamble, one places a bet with something of value on something they perceive as having more value with the intent of winning. There is also “quasi-gambling,” a term that describes things like the stock market and real estate investments. The amount of money and time staked in these areas determine whether an action is considered gambling. 

Whether someone gambles at a card table or in the stock market, gambling can become a compulsion or addiction.

How to Know if You Have a Gambling Problem 

The first and most telling sign of a gambling problem is if someone has the urge to gamble without consideration of the negative consequences. Similarly, if one does not want to stop gambling even after a negative outcome from a recent gambling experience, this can signify a problem. 

More signs of a gambling problem include: 

  • Continuous gambling that eventually leads to distress

  • A constant need to take bigger risks

  • Feelings of restlessness when trying to cut back on gambling

  • Putting important relationships at risk in order to gamble

  • Asking others to bail one out of financial trouble due to excessive gambling

What Is a Substance Use Disorder? 

Addiction or SUD can be described as a disease that affects an individual's brain function and behavior. This leads to them not being able to control the abuse of addictive substances like drugs and alcohol. As more time passes, their body becomes dependent on the substance, and attempts to lessen use can bring on withdrawal symptoms because their body has become used to functioning only with the substance. 

Signs that may show someone has SUD include: 

  • Constant cravings for the substance

  • Having to increase the amount of the substance used to get the same effect over time 

  • Constantly spending money on the substance

  • Stealing money or items to get money for the substance

  • Failing when trying to stop using the substance

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon attempts to cease use of the substance

The Relationship Between SUD and Gambling

A majority of the time, gambling addictions and mental health issues co-exist. Depression, anxiety, mood disorders, some personality disorders, and SUD have been studied in their co-occurring roles with gambling addiction. An individual with SUD is more likely to also develop a gambling addiction and vice-versa. 

SUD and gambling addiction are similar in the sense that, in both situations, an individual may not have control over their actions to use, drink, or gamble despite the negative consequences that arise. Both addictions usually start as recreational and then develop into an addiction. 

Treatment Options

Treating both SUD and a gambling addiction separately may not be the best idea. As with co-occurring mental health disorders with SUD, concurrent treatment for all issues leads to the best outcomes. If only one issue is treated while another is overlooked, it can lead to a relapse in one or both conditions.

As such, SUD and gambling addictions should be treated simultaneously.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment 

One option for treatment for co-existing conditions is dual diagnosis treatment, which treats both addictions simultaneously. Struggling with a mental health disorder and addiction is not uncommon, which is why dual diagnosis treatment is available and necessary.

At The Edge, we have dedicated clinicians who can accurately diagnose SUD, mental health conditions, and behavioral addictions like gambling to ensure an individual's treatment is tailored to their needs and treats all conditions together for the best outcomes. We offer a holistic approach to recovery, meaning we look at the entirety of an individual and address all needs. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Another beneficial form of treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This form of therapy specifically can help individuals manage their addiction as well as social, emotional, and environmental triggers that may be present. Overall, CBT can help transform the negative thoughts associated with drug addiction. 

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing can also be an effective form of treatment for both gambling addiction and drug addiction because it gives the client more autonomy and control in their recovery. Motivation is thought of as an innate personality trait when in reality, it is something that can be taught and encouraged. 

Motivational interviewing consists of the client creating goals for themselves, which can include recovery and more. This form of therapy focuses on making sure the client feels self-motivated and confident in their recovery, as these are the keys to long-term recovery from substance and behavioral addictions. 

Get Dual Diagnosis Treatment at The Edge Treatment Center!

Struggling with both substance use disorder and a gambling addiction can feel isolating and concerning. There are many treatment options available to you, and The Edge Treatment Center is a resource available to you.

If you struggle with these two issues, speak with our clinical staff for advice on receiving treatment. We understand that every individual is unique in what works best for them, which is why offer a flexible, unique approach. You are never alone in this process, as our community of clinicians and alumni is always there for you.

If you are ready to begin treatment, contact The Edge Treatment Center today.

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