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.
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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25 May 2022
This treatment centre has helped start my recovery and all the staff have been very helpful. Really enjoyed my stay here 10 weeks!
24 May 2022
Very good place to come the staff are great and the community was always so helpful
Pay peanuts, get monkeys – a dodgy business model is redeemed by great staff, and a community-minded
24 May 2022
Whilst Liberty House offers great value for money for those recovering from various addictions, and coming to terms with various personality disorders which may underpin these addictions, their community-based model has its cons. Budgetary restrictions place their incredible on-site staff under immense pressure. Nobody who works full-time at the centre itself is in it for the money. They work there because they care passionately about healing and recovery for their clients, but their passion and commitment is compromised by the financial model which underpins the business – and don’t forget that they are indeed a business; a private model where somebody up the chain is profiting, at the expense of its staff and paying customers. Like many residential rehabilitation centres, there are frequent repeat customers; one might assume that despite client recovery being a primary aim, the danger of relapsing is built into the business model. Let’s talk about the positives; this is mainly the staff. The core therapists believe in tough love, softened by a community-based approach, where customers are asked to share much of the workload of recovery. This puts the staff under intense pressure. They collectively have to fight for tiny increases to their working budget. Much of the equipment in the centre is broken, old, faulty and in need of replacing; don’t expect a good night’s sleep. The beds and furniture are worse than you might find in an open prison, and sometimes this is what – in my experience – many customers grumble about. But the staff make do, despite this; the remarkable chef, Gareth, has to spend his own money on equipment; sometimes he brings in his own. If he is not there, the food is crap; he, however, turns mediocre food into brilliant meals, which was one of the saving graces of my experience. All the core therapists were brilliant at their jobs, and put in the hours and dedication to the clients they serve; I owe a particular debt of gratitude to Jeanette, Jade, Brendan and John Port. I cannot praise the support staff enough; an incredible team, from top to bottom; from the cleaners and builders, to management. Their service was exemplary, in very difficult circumstances. Some of their house rules are almost impossible for their customers to understand and decode, so there’s a hell of a lot of confusion for the entire community – staff and clients. Hopefully this will be redeemed by the tenure of their new manager, Sally – but her work is cut out! I wish her and her support staff all the best in their jobs, especially Gosha and Justine, but it’s wrong to name a few; this is a great team all around. Ultimately, I owe Liberty House a debt of gratitude for saving my life, and the lives of hundreds of people. The reviews on this page are bound to confirm my experience is not unique. At the least, your loved ones will come out of their treatment in a much better state of mind, body and spirit then when they arrived. Like any rehabilitation process, it’s a question of horses for courses; this follows the Alcoholics Anonymous model, which is severely in need of an update; like the bible many clients mistake it for, it was written a long time ago. Nevertheless, therapists are very well trained. In my short stay, I learnt to challenge and update many of my core beliefs. I learnt about a variety of therapeutic models, from transactional analysis, to CBT, DBT and more, which will serve me well in my future adventures on the wheels of steel. If you are a drug user, or a caring relative in desperation, I recommend Liberty House. It’s seven times cheaper than the Priory! Your loved ones will be grateful beyond measure when you leave the clinic a changed person. But I do wish whomever is profiting from this private model stops hoovering up the meagre profits, and begins to invest in the centre, beginning with pay rises, budget increases, and a massive overhaul. The centre is direly in need of entire refurbishment; otherwise it will lose staff, and lose business, in years ahead. Finally, despite the corner-cutting, it’s a happy family there. Your loved ones will come out shiny and freshly-polished, with the tools to beat their respective addictions, and a new family to support them in recovery. Thanks to all at Liberty House for changing my life – for the better, and hopefully for the rest of my life.
23 May 2022
I am so grateful for being able to come to Primrose lodge. My life is now going in the right direction. Thank you x
23 May 2022
Liberty house is a very good treatment centre for addiction. It runs on the bases of the 12 step programme but offers so much more. The addition of calming breathing techniques, meditation and yoga which are all important for calming the mind body and spirit to embrace change. Thanks
23 May 2022
My stay at Linwood house has been the the most wonderful journey I’ve been on in my life. Coming face to face with myself and learning to process my feelings has been incredibly powerful. Thank you to all who have been involved, you’ve quite literally been lifesavers. I feel like a beautiful butterfly, I’m ready to spread my wings.
22 May 2022
All the support from the staff, the amount of patience the staff have. The consistent care and routine of the medication has helped massively. The general understanding and been able to approach staff with ease the groups have helped me massively also my peers have been great.
22 May 2022
thoroughly enjoyed my time at Oasis, the centre is great the treatment program is great and the staff are great
22 May 2022
I received an excellent detox and treatment at Primrose Lodge and would certainly recommend it to anyone requiring such treatment.
22 May 2022
I cant thank the staff enough for their help and support throughout my detox and rehab. they were polite, professional and extremely friendly from day one and treated me with dignity and respect. The councilors(some being recovering addicts themselves) were very understanding and knowledgeable. The groups were informative and at times enjoyable. The accommodation is satisfactory and could do with a facelift(mattresses and bedding especially) however all your basic needs are met. The food could be healthier but the chefs are very good and do their best with the resources they have available. the option to order food from the outside on occasion would be nice. Overall i have found my time at Liberty house to be extremely positive and feel i am now equipped to manage my addiction going forwards. They have saved my life.
22 May 2022
I found the group sessions enlightening the therapy sessions were very good, overall the treatment I received has given me the confidence and the focus to continue my recovery
21 May 2022
I came in here primarily for gambling but also because I drank excessively, I thought the centre is excellent and met all my needs. The staff and therapists were excellent and I feel I have learnt a lot about my self .
21 May 2022
When I came in to sanctuary lodge I felt lost and broken, with the help of the staff here I am leaving like a rejuvenated person ready to live again. The staff have been fantastic throughout my my stay here for the housekeeping to the chefs , the support staff , and Maria the manger and Kat my therapist. Both have been a big help throughout my stay here through the good and bad times .
20 May 2022
The staff at liberty house are incredible! I have made progress far beyond my expectations. They will always go above and beyond to insure you take as much as possible fro the programme . The only downside is the standard of the accommodation, which is very substandard.
20 May 2022
Absolutely zero complaints, staff were incredible and the scope of services provided were outstanding, has given me the support and foundation for me to continue my life in sobriety.
19 May 2022
I was absolutely broken and couldn’t see a way out of my addiction when I stepped foot into Sanctuary Lodge, I’ve been in a mosh pit of emotions, I’m leaving here with a strong sense of who I am and I feel so happy and excited to start my new life in soberity. I can wholeheartedly say that every element of sanctuary lodge and my entire stay has been the single most fantastic eye opening experience. My therapist Kat, has carried me through my whole journey and supported me more than I could ever express, I absolutely love her , she has made me look at myself in a completely new light, positive feedback where I needed to hear it good and bad parts I didn’t want to see. She has helped me look at my life in a new light, And with professionalism is second to none and I cannot express my gratitude enough. Maria the manager has been professional and supportive of all my needs and always takes the time to make sure I have been happy with the treatment . Therapy team have been simply fantastic and the support team , are just the best BIG shout out to Stevie, Dorrell, grace, and Hannah and Julie they have been amazing every step of the way. The chefs need a shout out Martin and Tony are great Chefs , and make a great Sunday roast and full English. ( p.s remember to order a George !) .
19 May 2022
My stay at Liberty House was an amazing life transformation experience. I know that if would of possponned my using for little longer i would be facing death.I got so much from this place, life was throwing curve balls in the last weak and with the counselers support and the people support from the groups was there when i needed it. I feel that i have grown so much over here, as much as i didnt want to come here at the end was time to leave ands i fely very empotional to leave because this place felt like being home. Fully recommend from the bottom of my heart.
19 May 2022
The great experience and brilliant staff at Primrose Lodge have provided me with a strong foundation for the beginning of my lifelong recovery. Thank you!
19 May 2022
The place is very clean and tidy food’s getting better each day the therapy is excellent
19 May 2022
This is my second time at Sanctuary Lodge and it has been a truly beneficial experience. The therapy team are excellent and I can’t speak highly enough of my Therapist Tracey. The programme is very varied and challenging. The care support is excellent as is the catering and housekeeping services. I would highly recommend Sanctuary Lodge to anyone suffering with addiction who wishes to start their recovery.
Why Choose UKAT
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Family Support Programme
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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.*
* Click here to learn more or contact UKAT directly for rehab availability.