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Gambling Wave Sets Stage for Addiction

Glamorization of gambling may create a new generation of addicts.

Did Lotteries Produce More Women Gamblers?

Gambling -- and compulsive gambling -- grew enormously in the late 1960s when state lotteries were first put into place, Dodes says.

"It used to be said that compulsive gambling was 90% male and now that's no longer true," he says. In the past, "gambling involved the horse track, the dog track, the race track or sporting events and women were not into it, but the lottery is equal opportunity," he tells WebMD.

"We now have all the soccer moms who think nothing of going into stores and buying a lottery ticket," he says. And "the more people who engage in gambling, the more addicts will emerge," he says.

Tip of the Gambling Iceberg?

People who become gambling addicts are also more likely to have other addictions, he says. About 40% of compulsive gamblers also abuse alcohol. "When people solve internal problems through addictive behavior, they can shift from one to another," he says. "That's why you often see people who start out as street drug users in their teens and then become alcoholics in adulthood."

A new study in the journal Nature Neuroscience backs this theory up. The study showed that compulsive gamblers and drug addicts have similar patterns of brain activity.

"In my experience, there does tend to be a lot of crossover, but just because a person has one addiction doesn't mean they will have another," says Mandel.

Symptom substitution is a common phenomenon among addicts, she says. "They may transfer their energy to something else and become addicted to it," she explains. "This can be positive, say, if a person becomes really committed to exercise instead of gambling."

According to Dodes, getting a good evaluation about what is bothering you that is being expressed through addiction is important. "When you understand what it is that is driving the addiction, you can better do something about it."

For more information on the risks of gambling in teens, visit the North American Training Institute web site at www.nati.org. Problem gamblers can also contact gamblers anonymous at www.gamblersanonymous.org.

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