The Link Between Gambling Addiction and Substance Abuse

Man sitting a slot machine drinking a glass of hard liquor

It’s no secret that gambling addiction can have a devastating impact on families. What may not be as well known is the link between gambling addiction and substance abuse. In fact, studies show that up to 60% of gambling addicts also struggle with substance abuse. This can create significant challenges for families trying to cope with both addictions simultaneously. Understanding how these two conditions interact can help you better support your loved one.

Gambling and Drug Addiction

Gambling and drug addiction are both serious problems that can destroy lives. People who struggle with compulsive gambling may turn to illicit drugs to cope with their gambling addiction, or to stay up all night gambling. Some of the common drugs people abuse while gambling include stimulants like cocaine, hallucinogens, and marijuana.

Gambling addiction and drug abuse share many common features, which is why they often occur together. These similarities make it difficult for people with gambling addiction to quit on their own. In fact, only about 10% of people with gambling addiction ever seek treatment.

Gambling addiction and drug addiction together can lead to massive financial difficulties. People with gambling addiction often rack up large debts from gambling while also spending money to feed their drug habit. This can lead to bankruptcy, foreclosure, and loss of important possessions. To make up for financial losses, individuals with these addictions may be more likely to commit theft, embezzlement, fraud, and similar crimes. This ends up being a vicious cycle that is difficult to stop.

Gambling and Alcohol Addiction

Gambling addiction and alcohol addiction are also closely linked. Studies have shown that people with gambling addiction are more likely to suffer from alcohol dependence than the general population. In fact, up to 50% of people with gambling addiction also have alcohol addiction. This is due to the fact that drinking is often commonplace, and even encouraged, in casinos. It may also help compulsive gamblers ease their nerves before making large bets.

Like gambling addiction and drug addiction, gambling addiction and alcoholism can lead to financial problems as well as impulsive and risky behavior. People with gambling addiction may spend all their money on gambling as well as large amounts of alcohol.

Signs of Gambling Addiction and Substance Abuse

There are many signs that someone may be struggling with gambling addiction and substance abuse. These include:

  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home in order to gamble or use drugs
  • Using gambling or drug abuse as a way to escape from problems
  • Lying about gambling or drug use
  • Stealing money to gamble or buy drugs
  • Gambling or using drugs despite negative consequences

Compulsive Gambling and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse Treatment

If you or someone you know is struggling with compulsive gambling and co-occurring substance abuse, it’s important to get help. Gambling addiction is different from many other process disorders due to the financial difficulties and emotions that can arise from it. It’s also key to find help that provides treatment for co-occurring substance abuse. Both addictions fuel one another and must be treated at the same time to prevent relapse.

Williamsville Wellness is one of the only residential gambling addiction treatment programs in the country that also treats co-occurring substance use disorders. Our goal is to educate you about problem gambling and substance abuse to combat the issues. We utilize psychotherapy to help our patients develop healthy coping skills, manage anger and impulsivity, and regulate emotions. We also utilize the 12-Steps of Gamblers’ Anonymous as well as SMART Recovery. Our 400+ acre historic home facility is located in central Virginia providing a beautiful backdrop for recovery.

If you are ready to begin your gambling addiction and substance abuse recovery journey, contact us today to get started.