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March 11, 2016 // WorkLife Wisdom: When Gambling Becomes a Problem

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Given the ubiquity of gambling opportunities today — via casinos, lotteries, online gaming and sports wagering — gambling has a widespread and sometimes destructive impact on Americans from all walks of life. Talking about and acknowledging a gambling problem in yourself or a loved one is an important initial step in recovery. Seeking individualized treatment and ongoing support is also essential.

  • Be aware of the warning signs: A gambling problem may be present when someone 1) cannot stick to a limit of time and money spent gambling; 2) thinks of wagering as an investment; and/or 3) places bets to escape feelings of anxiety, stress, or depression.
  • Acknowledging the problem is a vital step: Gambling trouble is often accompanied by a substantial extent of denial, even when the person has obvious problems in relationship, financial, and career areas. People with the illness often refuse to accept that they need treatment; often pressure from others is what instigates the recovery process.
  • Treatment helps: Problem gambling is now diagnosed and treated as a type of addiction like drug or alcohol dependency. Treatments range from intensive therapy to group-based recovery. Gambling addiction treatment programs vary in emphasis and structure, so it’s important to learn about the options and make a decision that works best for the individual and family.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for problem gambling focuses on changing unhealthy thought processes, mood, and cognitive distortions that increase one’s vulnerability to out-of-control gambling. It teaches people how to fight gambling urges and to solve the financial, work, and relationship problems the addiction causes.
  • Participation in support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, helps gamblers and their families (via Gam-Anon Family Groups). Modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous uses a 12-step model and a mutual-support approach to gambling avoidance.
  • Medications may also be used as part of treatment. Certain antidepressants and opioid antagonists (e.g., naltrexone) have been shown to ameliorate the symptoms of problem gambling. However, the FDA has not specifically approved medications for gambling addiction treatment.
  • Reach out when you need it: Your FAA WorkLife Solutions Program can provide you with confidential advice and counseling support specific to a gambling problem. Another helpful resource is the National Council on Problem Gambling, which offers a confidential 24/7 free helpline, screening tools, local treatment locators, and other gambling-focused assistance.

Accessible 24/7, your FAA WorkLife Solutions Program offers many resources and services to help you and your family. Options available through the program include concierge services to help with everyday events needing your time and attention, child and elder care options, legal and financial services, in-person counseling, and much more. Call your program at 1-800-234-1327, TTY Users: 1-800-456-4006, or log on to MagellanHealth.com/Member to begin accessing these services today.