Every day, almost everyone takes a gamble of one type or another. Whether it is as high stakes as investing your savings on the stock market, or as simple as trying a new recipe for dinner, most of the decisions we make have the potential to backfire. When they go well, we feel good; pleased with ourselves and our success. When they go badly, well, as the saying goes, we try, try, try again.
This response is key to human evolution. Our brains are fine tuned to reward risk with positive emotions – this is what keeps us moving forward and striving for innovation and success. The bigger the risk is, the higher the emotional reward.
Though this mechanism has got us far as a species, it also has the potential to backfire badly. Compulsive gamblers can throw away thousands of pounds in a single evening as they chase the rush of a big win. For them, the euphoria experienced when a gamble pays off is so exhilarating that they begin to crave it. And when the bet goes bad, another bet often seems like the best answer to the emotional crash that follows losing.
Gambling companies know how this works inside-out, and casinos, slot machines and internet gambling sites are perfectly designed to capitalize on our natural tendencies to take risks while making absolutely sure that in the long run, the gambler can only lose. The rollercoaster of risk and reward that these companies offer can be highly engaging and, over time, can lead to addiction.
Important Update: Gambling Commission Announces Ban on Credit Card Deposits
On 14th January 2020, the Gambling Commission announced a ban on gambling businesses allowing consumers in Great Britain to use credit cards to gamble. The ban comes into effect on 14th April 2020 and follows a public consultation carried out last year.
24 million adults in Great Britain gamble, with 10.5 million of those gambling online. UK Finance estimate that 800,000 consumers use credit cards to gamble.
Separate research undertaken by the Gambling Commission shows that 22% of online gamblers using credit cards to gamble are classed as problem gamblers – with even more at some risk of harm.
The ban, which will apply to all online and offline gambling products with the exception of non-remote lotteries, will provide a significant layer of additional protection to vulnerable people.
UKAT’s Managing Director, Eytan Alexander, is in recovery from a gambling addiction and spoke about this decision and why it will help current and future gamblers.
According to the NHS, there are now almost 600 000 ‘problem gamblers’ in Great Britain – people who gamble compulsively and with little control over themselves.
Most often, problem gamblers are young, male and come from families where gambling is the norm. But by no means is this always the case – problem gamblers come from all walks of life, and population demographics are better at predicting what type of gambling someone will partake in rather than whether or not they will have gambling problems.
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In the past, gambling was confined to racetracks, casinos and informal games, often held among friends and invariably accompanied by alcohol or drugs.
Nowadays, you can bet thousands of pounds from your phone in a matter of minutes, and every high street has at least one betting shop, often lined wall to wall with slot machines which can take bets of up to £300 a minute. While the old types of gambling are still popular, the new forms have widened its appeal and dramatically increased levels of problem gambling.
Internet Gambling Of all the gambling types on offer, internet gambling is the most closely associated with addiction. This is in part because of ease of access – when you carry a mini casino around in your pocket all day, it can be incredibly hard to resist placing bets. But it is also because of how internet gambling sites are designed. Similar to slot machines, internet gambling often involves rapid play, with one bet rolling over automatically into the next, while constantly giving the illusion that the player is close to winning. These factors have been shown to be of high risk for addiction.
It is not always easy to spot the signals that you or someone close to you has developed a gambling problem. Often, the first signal might be money problems brought on by gambling, and the ways in which the gambler reacts to this event. However, there are other signs and symptoms to watch out for.
Asking to borrow money from friends and family and being evasive or dishonest about the reason
‘Chasing losses’, as the gambler returns to place more bets in order to try and get even
Preoccupation, as the person’s mind is constantly on gambling or problems with debt
Lying about what they have been doing or where they have been
Possessing large amounts of cash, which then disappear
Committing crimes such as fraud, theft or embezzlement, especially when the proceeds then disappear
Similar to drug or alcohol addiction, the person needs to gamble increasing amounts to achieve the same rush
Spending large amounts of time online with no apparent purpose
How does gambling become an addiction?
Perhaps more than any other type of addiction, gambling is often considered as a moral vice rather than a chronic disease. But this is a misunderstanding. Much like alcohol or drug dependence, gambling addiction occurs on a bio-chemical level in the brain. Whenever any of our five senses are activated, chemicals called neurotransmitters wash through our brains. These chemicals are what dictate our moods, emotions and physical feelings, and different types of neurotransmitters make us feel different ways.
This all goes on right in the centre of the brain, in an area called the ‘mid brain’, which is where our deepest survival instincts and subconscious thoughts reside. The mid brain does not think or make decisions; it is responsible for the basics – eat, sex, kill – and the pursuit of pleasure. When something pleases us, whether it is a hug, some tasty food, wining a bet or taking drugs, two key neurotransmitters called dopamine and norepinephrine are released in the mid brain, causing feelings of euphoria and physical comfort. The more extreme the source of pleasure is, the higher the amounts of neurotransmitters that are released, and consequently the stronger the pleasure experienced by the person.
The problem occurs when a particular source of intense pleasure – in this case gambling – is engaged in repeatedly. When this happens, the brain stores this information as subconscious memory, and begins to physically change to make space for the increased amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine rushing around the mid brain. The result of this is dramatic: the subconscious elevates gambling up its list of priorities to the same level as basic survival necessities, so instead of it focusing on ‘eat, sex, kill’, it focuses on ‘eat, sex, kill, gamble.’ Over time, gambling can be prioritized even further, until it becomes more important to the addict than even eating.
The good news is that although the brain can change shape to cause addiction, with effective treatment, therapy and time, it can change back to normal and the person can live a happy and fulfilling life, free of addiction.
Gambling and co-morbidity Perhaps more than any other addiction, compulsive gambling is often accompanied by drug or alcohol dependency. A large amount of studies have found that up to 33% of gambling addicts reported alcoholism, while over a third of young gambling addicts report heavy use of alcohol or illicit drugs. In addition, gambling addiction is often accompanied by psychological disorders, including depression, anxiety and Insomnia.
Social factors behind gambling addiction
Although it is clear how gambling addiction works in the brain, why is it that some people can happily place the occasional bet for fun, while others can’t stop gambling even when it starts having destructive effects on their lives? The answer may lie in one or more factors:-
Growing up in an environment where gambling is the norm greatly increases the chances of developing problems with gambling in the future. Having an abusive or neglectful upbringing is also a contributing factor, as it can lead to psychological problems later in life, from which gambling can appear to offer a distraction. Furthermore, gambling can provide the illusion of success, both economically and socially, which is alluring to individuals with feelings of low self-worth.
Studies show that family genes are an extremely significant factor in determining whether an individual becomes addicted to gambling or not. According to twin studies, the risk of someone developing a gambling addiction is 50% higher if other members of their direct families have gambling or other addictions. However, what is being inherited is not an addiction to gambling specifically, but a vulnerability for several conditions. This may help explain why gambling addiction, more so than other addictions, is often accompanied by substance or alcohol abuse, mood disorders or antisocial personality disorders.
Many people who start out gambling have little to no understanding that odds are stacked against them, and that even if they win at first it is impossible for them to make money in the long term. They often misunderstand that gambling outcomes are completely random and independent of past outcomes, and as such any ‘system’ the gambler develops cannot work.
The impacts of gambling addiction
Compulsive gambling can lead to a wide range of problems that may well accumulate over time. In fact, one of the reasons gambling addiction can be so destructive is that placing bets is often seen as the only route out of the problems that gambling caused in the first place, leading individuals down a negative spiral.
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Getting Help for Gambling Addiction
Although gambling addiction is a serious, destructive order that results from changes in the brain, it doesn’t require a detox program like alcohol or drug addiction treatment. Instead, it can be successfully treated with a combination of different types of therapy, group support and recovery resources.
UKAT provides a rehab programme for gambling addiction and other behavioural disorders. As the UK’s number one provider of addiction treatment, our clinics provide free aftercare and support for both the individuals and their families.
Below are the core therapies that can help patients recover from gambling addiction:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is used to address the psychological processes that underlie gambling addiction. A very active type of therapy, CBT uses a range of techniques from role playing to story-telling and homework. Research has shown that it is especially helpful at dealing with the false expectations and mistaken perceptions of many gambling addicts
Group Therapy helps provide peer support. It can be extremely effective in helping the patient come to understand some of the essential truths about their addiction, as members of the group work together to overcome the same issues. In group therapy, members exchange stories, coping strategies, hopes and difficulties. With the structure of the 12 steps program, these groups can help patients work through the process of recovery in an atmosphere of mutual respect and support.
Individual Therapy, where the patient works one on one with a therapist, helps to build the gambler’s understanding of their addiction and guide them through their recovery. Specialized therapists work with the patient to identify and develop strategies to deal with the key triggers associated with their addiction. Together, the therapist and patient address methods of dealing with stresses and psychological issues in productive and positive ways.
Families or couples counselling can be a necessary step in building a nurturing and supportive environment for the gambler’s recovery. Financial problems, lying and deceit are normal issues inflicted on the friends and families of gambling addicts, and this can make it difficult for them to support the gambler in their recovery. Furthermore, these issues may have cause psychological difficulties in those close to the gambler, which counselling can help to address.
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20 Jun 2021
Happy overall detox managed well and I’m ready to move on to the next stage of my recovery.
20 Jun 2021
My first detox, but daunting at first but staff do make you feel at ease. So glad I did it and ready to move on to the next stage of my recovery.
19 Jun 2021
treatment staff and councillors great.
18 Jun 2021
The Treatment was quite good i am now sober for 43 days and will be sober going forward.
18 Jun 2021
I would certainly recommend Recovery Lighthouse in Worthing . it consists of 13 residents at one time which makes the Group Therapy very personal and getting to know your peers . Lovely Garden to relax in and walkable distance to the beach front which was a bonus especially during free time at the weekends . The therapy sessions were very good but intense .Made you reflect on previous behaviour and understand reasons why with relevant feedback . Counsellors and Therapists all good on a one to one basis . Food and menus good and varied with 4 week timetable . All in all excellent treatment and feel confident with the skills learnt at the Light house.
18 Jun 2021
I felt very safe excellent staff
16 Jun 2021
4 weeks ago I was ready to end my life and thanks to family intervention they found banbury lodge. They managed to get me in next day and started my isolation which helped sober me up. Then straight into an amazing routine of the 12 steps and CBT. I’ve had personal issues whikst in treatment which the staff have helped me work through. I was introduced to my therapist Rebecca which helped change my life. Every single member of staff has also had a massive part in my sobriety and start to my journey of a better life. Especially Sarah, Bernie, Lianne, Tom, Zoe and Charlotte, Sandy.
11 Jun 2021
I can not recommend Sanctuary Lodge highly enough. Every member of staff takes the time and care to make your recovery as smooth as possible. They are all very kind and considerate. Kat booked me in and she was especially considerate considering the circumstances. All the Therapist’s are amazing. Tracey runs an excellent team. Mel was my Therapist and she was unbelievable. She understood my issues and really helped identify my problems. She presented practical solutions with love and care. She was straight talking and pulled no punches which is exactly what I needed. Thank you to everyone at Sanctuary Lodge. You are life savers. Wayne
10 Jun 2021
I was so nervous coming into Recovery Lighthouse, i did not know what to expect but i was greeted at the door by staff who were so welcoming, i was shown my room and assigned a “buddy” to help me with things and to show me around . Because of how nice and genuine people were i settled in really nicely and quickly. Youre never too far from anyone to ask for help with anything youre stuggling with. The 12 step work is fantastic, it is difficult to talk or address problems on the outside and i had so much id wanted to get out for so long, you are never judged here, never looked at in any other way, people resonate with you, empathise, and relate. The councillors and support staff are incredible , so understanding and easy to talk to. My time at Recovery Lighthouse has just given me so much hope for the future, it really does work if you work for it. It also helped me integrate back into society massively as all i did previously was isolate and afraid to leave the house- i no longer feel the need to do this. Ive grown so much mentally, i feel better physically, my head is so much more clearer and positive and have so much hope for my future. I am and will be forever grateful to everybody that has been part of my journey. x P.s The food is just amazing!
10 Jun 2021
I have found d my treat,ent excellent, staff couldn’t have done anything more. Chef does lovely food. Great all round thank you.
10 Jun 2021
It has been a great experience and I am getting my confidence back and feel alot better since I came in and staff have been fantastic, thank you too all the staff ypure great.
10 Jun 2021
What a magical place Liberty House is. The people and staff have been fantastic. The level of therapy has been very good and certainly saved my life and my marriage. The accommodation isn’t the best but im here for Recovery not a holiday. So it would have been silly to expect 5* accommodation. I guess its a bit of a double edged sword scenario as the level of therapy here is amazing and second to none. I originally came here due to the CQC ratings. Another Life Saved!!
10 Jun 2021
Even during my short stay here, everyone has been so polite, friendly and welcoming. I want to thank all the support staff, Chris and Suzie were great. Everyone was very approachable and there was always someone you could go to. My buddy(Dean) when older clients help the newer clients settle in was brilliant, there straight away to help me settle in.
10 Jun 2021
Despite my brief stay ay Oasis Runcorn, I have attempted to utilise group sessions to receive and provide feedback within my peer group. Overall, my experience has been an exceptionally positive one in which I have come to recognise a new level of awareness and inner strength. Timetabled sessions and activities are varied and inclusive. The community welcomed me with open arms and the facilities at Oasis Runcorn are adequately provided whilst independent care is encouraged. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Faith, Kelly, Tom, Darren, Chris, Kirsty, Andy, Marnie, Becca, Glenn, Andy and all the staff at Oasis Runcorn for their compassion and wisdom.
10 Jun 2021
I came in for Buprenorphine detox, i spoke to the Doctor, who was excellent in treating my medical detox safely and as pain free as possible. I received excellent therapy from all the staff, and im ready to go home free of my prescription drug addiction. Excellent service through out my stay.
10 Jun 2021
I think the treatment was good and very beneficial and let me make informed choices regarding my future recovery
10 Jun 2021
I was nervous at first but the treatment was brilliant and the staff were welcoming and caring. It as been a fantastic experience I would recommend it to anybody with an addiction issue
09 Jun 2021
Absolutely fantastic place, from the support staff, to the counsellors to the chef and cleaners, everybody here is really supportive and encouraging! the program is really well thought out, and i believe it works! the rules here may seem strict at the start, but after a week its easy see that there in place for our own good. Coming here is the beszt decision i’ve made in life so far!
09 Jun 2021
My whole experience in regards to my treatment with UKAT has exceeded my expectations. I had no idea what I was going into, but due to the staff professionalism and expertise I soon realised I made one of the best personal decision’s in my life! I did my 5 days isolation initially at Banbury lodge which the “isolation” experience was something out of anyone’s control however the staff were fantastic. Once I moved to my chosen centre (Primrose lodge Guildford), my first impressions was welcoming , hygienic and comfortable. The ambience of the lodge was very homely and spacious. The on site chef was outstanding and I was concerned about this factor the most, however I enjoyed every meal throughout my whole stay here at Primrose. This factor is one of the most important for me as good nutrient is a key element in your recovery. All the staff are exceptionally thorough and have every process in terms of running the day-day running of the centre perfected. Every process has been proofed and I have never found a fault or picked on something that’s not done or communicated. All the therapists are outstanding and I cannot thank them enough for the level of expertise they display. They blew me away how they got through to myself and many patients day in day out. Most of the staff are ex addicts and this puts a huge amount of comfort in my mind when of opening up in a safe environment. It is quite clear that the therapist’s passion and dedication is above and beyond and I feel so grateful for everything all the staff and this centre have done for me! Thank you Primrose Lodge (Guildford) My whole experience in regards to my treatment with UKAT has exceeded my expectations. I had no idea what I was going into, but due the fact of the staff professionalism and expertise I soon realised I made one of the best personal decision’s in my life! I did my 5 days isolation initially at Banbury lodge which the “isolation” experience was something out of anyone’s control however the staff were fantastic. Once I moved to my chosen centre (Primrose lodge Guildford), my first impressions was welcoming , hygienic and comfortable. The ambience of the lodge was very homely and spacious. The on site chef was outstanding and I was concerned about this factor the most, however I enjoyed every meal throughout my whole stay here at Primrose. This factor is one of the most important factor for me as good nutrient is a key element in your recovery. All the staff are exceptionally thorough and have every process in terms of running the day-day running of the centre perfected. Every process has been proofed and I have never found a fault or picked on something that’s not done or communicated. All the therapists are outstanding and I cannot thank them enough for the level of expertise they display. They blew me away how got through to myself and many more patients day in day out. Most of the staff are ex addicts and this puts a huge amount of comfort in my mind towards the comfort factor of opening up in a safe environment. The 12 step programme is extremely well structured and embedded into you during your time here at this centre and you can literally see the great results infront of your eyes when you see the patients toward the end if their treatment. The positive and happy atmosphere takes you completely out of the dark world you were in and I ended up enjoying every day whilst I was here. It is quite clear that the therapists passion and dedication is above and beyond and I feel so grateful for everything all the staff and this centre have done for me! Thank you Primrose Lodge (Guildford)
09 Jun 2021
I found Oasis Bradford extremely useful, particularly the zoom meetings.
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If you successfully complete our 90-day inpatient treatment programme but experience a relapse within 30 days of leaving, we will welcome you back for complimentary 30 days of treatment.*
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Our paitents' health & safety remains top priority during the COVID-19 pandemic. UKAT's strong safety measures have kept doors open throughout. They will continue to do so despite a 2nd national lock-down (November). To learn more, click here!