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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Gambling Wave Sets Stage for Addiction

Glamorization of gambling may create a new generation of addicts.

Ante Up Anyone? continued...

"If it's not going to be a problem, you won't make it one by playing a game," she says. The converse is also true. "People who are prone to addiction will find something to get addicted to," Mandel says.

With most addictions and addictive personalities, the younger the behavior starts the more likely it will continue because they lack inner resources, Mandel says. Risk factors include family history of addiction, depression, or anxiety. "A lot of times addictions are a way to self-medicate an anxiety disorder or depression," she says.

Red Flags for Addiction

Tell-tale signs among children include declining school grades, unaccounted for lost money, or by contrast, a lot of money and new possessions and/or mood swings before or after a game.

In adults, "if you set a limit and repeatedly break that limit, that is a definite indicator that you may have a problem in that area," Mandel tells WebMD. "If you find yourself thinking about the activity with high frequency, that may mean it's a problem."

Other red flags may include "changes in social or intimate relationships so that you become more withdrawn and less interested in people and other kinds of activities that usually brought you pleasure," she says.

Hewitt is on the lookout for such signs in Austin. "He's an excellent student and every season, he plays a sport," she says. "If I saw education or sports faltering or if I found that poker became his main interest, I would probably put a stop to it," she says.

"Obesity is rising and gambling is another sedentary activity that we are supporting rather than saying go out and play sports," White adds.

Gambling Ed?

"Maybe schools should teach about risks of gambling like they do alcohol and drugs," suggests White, who is also a professor of education at Temple University in Philadelphia. "One of the highest selling items for the holiday season was poker games and tables that parents are freely and easily buying for kids, so they are not getting the message that they are getting about drugs and alcohol."

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