What You Need to Know About Compulsive Gambling and Drinking

Compulsive behavior in any form can be considered an addiction, especially when it causes problems in a person’s daily life. More often than not, people who engage in compulsive behaviors experience many of the same physical and psychological effects that come with an alcohol or substance abuse problem.

While addiction in any form can make a person more susceptible to other forms of addiction, compulsive gambling and drinking share certain similarities that tend to draw one to the other. Understanding the special relationship between compulsive gambling and drinking can go a long way towards helping you determine whether there’s real a need for treatment help.

If you need help finding a treatment program that meets your needs, call our toll-free helpline at 888-647-0051 (Who Answers?) for assistance.

Gambling and Drinking: Sequential Addictions

Compulsive Gambling

Having a compulsive gambling disorder puts you at high risk of developing an alcohol addiction.

According to the U. S. Department of Health & Human Services, rates of co-occurring problems with gambling and drinking point to a strong, interacting pattern or sequence in terms of one type of behavior leading to the other.

On average, anywhere from 9 to 30 percent of people who abuse alcohol and/or drugs also engage in compulsive gambling. On the flip-side, an estimated 25 to 63 percent of gamblers also abuse alcohol and drugs.

This means the likelihood a compulsive gambler will develop a drinking problem runs unusually high, and vice versa.

Drinking as a Coping Mechanism

Part of the reason why compulsive gambling and drinking disorders tend to go together has to do with the environments in which gambling takes place. It’s not uncommon for casinos to offer free alcohol as a means to keep gamblers in their seats.

The effects of alcohol also provide quick and easy relief when gambling starts to cause money problems or relationship conflicts. Under these conditions, drinking can quickly become a person’s go-to coping mechanism for dealing with the ups and downs that come with a compulsive gambling problem.

Effects of Co-Occurring Disorders on the Brain

Addiction in any form disrupts the brain’s natural chemical balance. Over time, these changes interfere with normal brain functioning in significant ways.

With co-occurring disorders, addiction progresses at an even faster rate. In effect, co-occurring gambling and drinking disorders feed into one another to the point where one condition worsens the severity of the other, according to the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

The Addiction Cycle

Both compulsive gambling and drinking addictions develop out of a cycle of abuse that produces the following effects:

  • Increasing tolerance levels
  • Physical dependence
  • Withdrawal episodes
  • Emotional/psychological dependence

With just one disorder, the addiction cycle can easily take over a person’s daily life. With two interacting disorders, the addiction cycle can actually destroy a person’s life in terms of his or her finances, relationships, physical health and psychological well-being.

Treatment Considerations

Compulsive gambling and drinking make for a dangerous duo as far as co-addictions go. Also troubling is how these two disorders tend to attract one another, meaning someone who’s already struggling with compulsive gambling is automatically at risk of developing a drinking problem.

If you’re dealing with a gambling or drinking problem and are considering getting treatment help, call our helpline at 888-647-0051 (Who Answers?) to ask about available treatment options.


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