Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Gambling and addictions

Addictions are everywhere, from alcohol to drugs to gambling. We know that addictions are serious but there are many people who are quick to label any type of obsessive behaviour over which they feel they have no control, as addictions. I used to feel that way about gambling. In my mind, it was “get over it, just stop.” Until I learned that gambling truly can be an addiction.

I thought of this last night as my husband and I went for our annual casino adventure. Montreal has a casino run by Loto-Quebec that was supposed to be mainly for visitors, but a good look at the parking lot and listening to conversation in the casino, it’s patently obvious that the majority of the patrons are from Quebec and the Montreal area. You can see that many of them are very regular visitors.

I see going to the casino as having a bit of fun with a bit of “who knows? Maybe we’ll come out ahead.” Alas, we didn’t – our allotted spending amount was depleted in short order. But, in all seriousness, gambling has become a big problem. According to Statistics Canada , “Whether buying lottery tickets, visiting casinos or participating in hockey pools, Canadians are gambling more than ever before. In 2004, Canadians bet a total of $12.4 billion—more than a fourfold increase from the $2.7 billion wagered in 1992.”

More recent statistics from Stats Canada, from 2006, show that up to 1.2 million Canadian adults are either addicted to gambling or are at risk of developing the addiction. That’s 5% of the total adult population, and 6% of all Canadian gamblers. The statistics go on to show that of the 1.2 million, 10% of them, 120,000 people, are having financial problems, are depressed, anxious, or are alcoholics.

The Canada Safety Council has even more sobering statistics when looking at gambling and suicide. A report from 2004 from Nova Scotia states that problem gambling was a factor in 6.3% of suicides in that province. This type of statistic is only available in Nova Scotia and not other provinces because it is required that suicide investigation includes asking about gambling while no other province does.

Ready for another scary statistic? In a study from Quebec of college students, 26.8% of pathological gamblers had attempted suicide. Compare this with the average rate of attempted suicide of 7.2% among college students who don’t gamble.

One more: In the US, a survey of Gamblers Anonymous members found that 48% had considered suicide, 13% attempted it.

Then, there are the other fall outs of gambling, such as isolation from family, domestic abuse, theft, and job loss, among others. And gambling doesn’t have to be the legalized casino-type gambling. What of the people who spend a substantial part of their pay or social income on provincial and state run lotteries? What of bingos and other sorts of legalized gambling. Of course, there is the behind-the-scenes type of gambling as well, the poker games, the sports betting, there’s no end to it.

Makes me feel a bit guilty about spending my evening at the casino last night.

News for today (hey, it's August!)
Laser printers can affect air quality, researchers say
Skipping doses is 'crisis' in U.S., report says
Anorexia nervosa -- more common and transient than previously thought
Study shows radiofrequency ablation highly effective in treating kidney tumors
Screening MRI allows detection of more breast cancers in high-risk women
Study Offers New Look at “Self-Neglect” Among Older Persons


Terrie Farley Moran said...

What an eye opener. The destruction that follows all types of addiction is monumental. At least now we recognize that addiction of any sort is a medical condition.


Clare2e said...
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Marijke Vroomen-Durning said...

Hi Terrie, yes those stats are an eye opener, aren't they? Frightening.

Hi Clare2e,
Thanks so much for stopping by. (thanks to you too terrie!). I agree with you though, although now that I've got that line in my head, I don't know what I think. :-)