Compulsive Gamblers at Increased Risk for Alcohol Abuse

An addiction to gambling is a serious mental health disorder that can quickly ravage an individual’s life if treatment is not sought to halt the destructive compulsions and behaviors that are characteristic of this condition. Gambling disorder is the only non-substance-related addiction that is included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), though individuals who grapple with such an illness also commonly struggle with a substance use disorder. Alcohol addiction, or alcohol use disorder, is cited as one of the most common types of chemical dependency that can exist alongside an addiction to gambling.

For many, a problem with alcohol emerges as an addiction to gambling develops and becomes worse. This progression has to do with the development of a gambling disorder in the first place. As an individual begins to spend more and more of his or her time gambling, especially when done in casinos or in other environments in which social gambling occurs, the consumption of alcohol increases. Within casinos or other types of gambling establishments, alcohol is often readily available and may even be served while a person partakes in card games, slot machines, and other types of games. When this occurs, and especially if a person is unable control his or her gambling, an addiction to alcohol can develop without the individual even knowing that it is happening due to the frequency in which beer, wine, and/or spirits are consumed.

Yet another reason why gambling disorder and alcohol use disorder often go hand-in-hand is the psychological turmoil that results when a person is struggling with a gambling problem. Those who have developed a serious addiction to gambling may often try to refrain from placing bets or wagering excessive amounts of money in order to avoid financial difficulties. However, when an individual is unable to abstain from gambling and continues to do so with larger and larger sums of money, that person is likely to experience an emotional downward spiral that can seem impossible to escape. Many men and women who have been unsuccessful in their efforts to stop gambling turn to the abuse of substances, namely alcohol, as a means of numbing their inner anguish. When this occurs, a person is then left to suffer with the challenges of gambling disorder and alcohol use disorder.

Given the potential for harm that exists when addictions to gambling and alcohol are occurring within the same person, it is important for an individual with such concerns to seek effective treatment. Without proper care, financial ruin, unemployment, the demise of meaningful relationships are but a few examples of the consequences that can emerge and destroy a person’s overall quality of life. However, by seeking treatment that conscientiously addresses both of these types of addiction, it is possible for an individual to rebuild his or her life, become well again, and live a satisfying existence that does not include gambling and the abuse of alcohol.