Gambling addiction: Sink or swim

Gambling addiction: Sink or swim. 46030.jpegPractically any person in the world may develop ill habits and become addicted to them under certain circumstances. People may become addicted to food, alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, and many other things. The number of pathological addicts, or sick individuals, depends on the level of violence and aggression in the society. People may suffer from a lot of pressure in the modern-day society. When it happens, some simply want to escape from problems and forget about their existence. They can do that with the help of drugs, alcohol or gambling.

The best and only way to struggle with such addiction is to join the communities of people who have already suffered from it. There are many groups in Russia that support drug addicts, smokers, sexoholics and even debtors. The first groups of anonymous gamblers appeared in Russia ten years ago.

Vladimir, one of the founders of the group of anonymous gamblers, has many stories to share. "I was gambling for nearly eleven years. I was trying to quit during the last years of my addiction, but I just couldn't do it. A doctor in a rehab clinic where I was undergoing treatment once told me: "If you want to stay alive, make a community of anonymous gamblers."

In the beginning, Vladimir would simply discuss his problems with a friend of his. The two guys would just light a candle and talk. Other people began to join them afterwards. Solomon, one of the old-timers of the group, finds it difficult to say how many people have been through their group. "I can only judge on the number of booklets that we give away to our members. At first we printed 2,000 copies, then another thousand."

Such communities began to appear all across Russia soon afterwards.

Oleg Zykov, a narcologist and the president of "No to Alcoholism and Drug Addiction" charity foundation, believes that the existence of such support groups means that the society realizes that it is possible to struggle various addictions.

Gambling bars would open everywhere during the 1990s in Russia. The gambling boom led to its consequences, of course. Many gambling addicts began to commit crimes. Some would steal, others would commit suicide because of their debts.

"When I had problems in my life, I ran to the nearest casino, where I would feel safe and comfortable. I did not see any reminders of the real world there. There were not even windows or clocks there. I could spend days gambling and had to ask a casino employee to buy me fresh pairs of socks every now and then," Solomon says.

It took the society time to realize that gambling addiction is just as serious as addiction to drugs or alcohol. The majority of people, including gamblers' relatives, would perceive their behavior as lack of will. However, it became known later that the consequences of gambling addiction could be as terrifying as those of drug addiction. The state eventually decided to ban gambling clubs. However, it did not eliminate the problem. There are still many bookmaking offices and online casinos, not to mention underground gambling clubs.

Oleg Zykov believes that there is no such issue as gambling addiction. There is an issue of personality, he says. If a person wants to escape from the real world, he or she will always find a way how to do that.

Moreover, the number of pathologically addicted people is always directly connected with the level of violence in the society.

"One may find a connection between the number of prisoners and the level of narcotization in a country. The USA, China and Russia are the world leaders in terms of the number of prisoners. Consequently, the consumption of narcotics in these countries is on a high level too, just like other addictions," Oleg Zykov said.

As for positive examples, Zykov referred to Japan. There was a very high level of addiction to amphetamines in the country after WWII. The authorities later determined that it was directly connected with the number of imprisoned individuals. Many people did drugs for the first time when they were serving prison terms.

Nowadays, Japan had the lowest indicator of the number of prisoners: 47,000 inmates in the 102-million-strong country. The consumption of drugs in Japan is also the lowest. It means that it is impossible to solve a problem by banning some "bad things." People will always find alternatives. Gamblers may often become alcoholics, for example, and vice versa.

Each person is programmed to showing resistance to negative conditions of the environment. It is possible to either destroy or develop such abilities. When a person has, let's say, flu, they know what to so and where to ask for help. Addicts usually find themselves helpless, they do not know how they can help themselves. They usually find a solution when they have been through all circles of hell.

Western specialists, who study gambling addiction, say that stationary treatment of this addiction results in remission in 54 percent of cases. The percentage is higher (70-80) if a person goes to anonymous gamblers groups.

"When I broke down and came to the casino again, I realized that gambling was not giving me the excitement that I experienced before. It's because I know it's a disease," Solomon said. "When I was gambling all the time it seemed to me that there were only moral morons around me, and I hated all of them. Then I began to change. I stopped gambling and I realized that I was moving forward."

Svetlana Smetanina


Read the original in Russian 


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov