Gambling is a recent trend in teenage behavior which is raising some controversy across the country. This risky habit has been recently televised through ESPN’s World Series of Poker along with a feature on teen-based shows like Pretty Little Liars (ABC Family). Currently the rate of high school gambling problems has surpassed adults 2 to 1. This drastic increase is due to the ease of access on the internet and social get-togethers. Some gamblers can be purely social and in no danger of addiction. However, pathological gambling leads to addiction quite quickly. Knowing the signs of both is important for parents and peers alike. Early intervention and education can help curb this upward trend in teen gambling addicts.
The social gambler enjoys the game regardless of winning and losing. This individual will not allow gambling to put them in debt to anyone, and they can walk away at any time. A friendly poker night will be something to look forward to as a social gathering, not a chance to win money in a high stakes game. In addition, these types of games will not have IOU’s being passed around or strangers being invited to deepen the pot. The social teen gambler is a responsible individual who is not likely to show signs of addiction.
This teenager is at the most risk for gambling addiction. Pathological gambling is all about the money and the thrill. This person will not have a cap on how much money they will bet, or, if they do, that cap will probably be broken. When the money runs out, they will be desperate to write IOU’s between friends and strangers alike. Erratic behavior will follow a win or loss, often accompanied by drastic mood changes. This person will do anything, including selling belongings or drugs, to continue trying to win a big pot, even if they continue to lose. Seeing any of these signs in a teenager who gambles is a signal to intervene as a parent or to speak kindly as a peer.
There is hope for the teen addicted to gambling by the way of help lines and addiction recovery centers. Gamblers Anonymous is an organization similar to Alcoholics Anonymous for those addicted to gambling and looking for help. The damage done to family and friends is reparable; however, the road to recovery is not easy. A teenager recovering from addiction will need strong parental support and a good group of peers. It all begins by recognizing the problem and expressing it in a loving caring manner.
Sadly, many teenager gamblers hail from unstable homes and have few places to turn. This does not mean there is no hope for down trodden individuals. Gamblers Anonymous and other associations are there to help anyone in need. If you, or someone you know, have a gambling problem this phone number is a confidential, 24 hr. help line. 1-800-522-4700. Gambling is a serious issue with more suicide attempts than any other addiction. Getting help is the strongest, most mature decision to make.