The thrill of making bets can be just as addictive as any chemical

Whether it’s online or at a casino, gambling is fast approaching alcohol dependence as the most problematic addiction on college campuses across the nation. Gambling can be a fun and innocent part of life. Most people agree that there’s nothing wrong with buying the occasional lottery ticket or taking part in a weekly poker game with friends. However, when gambling becomes a habit and a compulsion, it transforms into a serious problem.

The Online-Gambling Craze

Over the past several years, gambling has become much more popular on college campuses than ever before. The Internet has spawned a revolution in gambling. The ability to make wagers at any time of day from the comfort of your own bedroom appeals to college students, who are often awake late at night and looking for something fun and exciting to do. Compounding the problem is the fact that the anonymity inherent in online gambling offers makes bettors more likely to take risks with their money.

Ten Things You Need to Know About Gambling Addiction

  • A lot of students gamble. Between 30 and 45 percent of college students gamble on a regular basis. A much smaller proportion of students are considered to be problem gamblers (the exact number is unknown but appears to be between 2 and 8 percent).
  • Males are only slightly more likely to gamble than females. One study reports that 91 percent of male students and 84 percent of female students have gambled at least once in the past year.
  • Sports betting is very popular. The NCAA reports that it believes around one-third of male college students place wagers on intercollegiate sports. (This figure is probably inflated by the vast number of students who participate in an annual March Madness pool).
  • College students are vulnerable to addiction. Some studies have shown that twice as many college gamblers as middle-aged gamblers meet the criteria for addiction.
  • Gambling’s main attraction isn’t the money. Students are drawn to gambling mainly because of the excitement and escape from everyday life that it offers. Students also gamble because of peer pressure and to alleviate depression.
  • Gambling is common in frats. Members of the Greek system are more likely to be compulsive gamblers than non-members.
  • Compulsive gambling often leads to serious financial problems. Some college students rack up more than $20,000 of gambling debt each year, much of which they fund with their credit cards.
  • Most compulsive gamblers don’t seek help. Most addicts only seek professional assistance after they have sunk into seriousdebt.
  • Gambling safely isn’t hard to do. Always set a dollar limit and a time limit before you begin gambling. Never exceed these limits. Never gamble to win back what you have lost.
  • Gambling addiction is linked to a number of social problems. These problems include losing friends, assault, abuse and suicide.

How to Tell if Someone Has a Gambling Problem

It’s harder to diagnose a gambling addiction than a chemical addiction. There are two key signs to look for: cutting class in order to gamble and placing bets with money that one can’t afford to spend. Other telltale signs of a gambling addiction include:

  • The size of the bets gets larger over time.
  • There are frequent mentions of waiting for a “big win.”
  • Promises to cut back are made but never met.
  • Gambling is preferred to social interaction with friends and family.
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