From the College Times on Thursday, October 22, 2009:
"Casino Royale," "21," "Poker Face" and a slew of other pop culture staples portray gambling in a smart, sexy and sly light, helping it become an accepted part of common culture. But in a society in which alcohol and substance abuse are commonly addressed, is the severity of gambling addiction being ignored?
As many as 11 percent of college students in the United States have serious gambling problems, according to the Harvard Medical School and National Center for Responsible Gaming task force.
Such addictions can lead to outrageous debts, psychological difficulties and declining grades, experts say.
Tim Christensen, treatment administrator in the Arizona Office of Problem Gambling, says that gambling can become an addiction like any other, with many of the same consequences. But even worse, gambling is a hidden disorder, something no one can physically detect.
"Someone doesn't come home with poker breath," Christensen said.
People think that if they are not injecting some kind of substance, then it isn't a real problem. Little do they know that gambling can be just as destructive, Christensen said.
Students who are involved in gambling often experience a similar pattern in path to addiction, Christensen said. It takes up a lot of time, first and foremost: students might start skipping classes to gamble or miss school after all-night gambling binges.
"A lot of college students gamble away their student loans and tuition money," he adds. "They start isolating themselves to stay at home and gamble on the internet."
Gambling also often results in a change of priorities. That's usually the case when someone wins a tournament and thinks it's an easy way to make money for the rest of their lives. Sometimes students even drop out of school thinking they can become a professional poker player, a generally unrealistic expectation, Christensen adds.
But how do students even get to that stage of problematic gambling?
Christensen says that two major factors seem to drive gamblers into addiction and debt.
First, a concept called "big win." Winning once summons up the euphoric feelings of victory and projects the illusion of luck. Thus, people are inclined to play more with the intention to win more, making them more susceptible to bigger losses and potential psychological damage, Christensen says.
On the flip-side of the coin, addicts often experience the concept of "chasing losses." Players lose their money at the casino and feel it's necessary to go back and gamble more in order to gain back their losses. The wide availability of casinos and online gaming - and, especially, the increased social acceptance of gambling - makes it easier for addicts to chase losses and dig a deeper financial and psychological hole, Christensen says.
"We need more education on problem gambling, and we can take protective steps and treatment to improve this," he said.
Christensen says players need to employ a self-imposed limit on time and money when it comes to gambling.
"There's nothing wrong with gambling, it just needs to remain as entertainment," he said. "If you are going to gamble, make sure it's with disposable income," he adds.