The issue of problem gambling may not have the same visibility as drug addiction or other mental illnesses, but it is no less a problem for the 6 million adults and 500,000 teens nationwide who meet the criteria for gambling addiction.
“Pathological gambling is unofficially known as “the silent addiction,” as people who suffer from this disease are often unaware they have a legitimate problem, or that there is help,” said Elizabeth Thielen, Nicasa Director of Gambling Intervention and Treatment Services, and Board Member of the Illinois Council on Problem Gambling.
Unfortunately the effects of problem gambling on the families and friends are not so “silent”. Children of compulsive gamblers are more likely to be neglected and abused. They are also at a higher risk for tobacco, alcohol, and drug use; and are more likely to become problem gamblers themselves. The lies, shame, and financial issues that result from problem gambling increase family conflict and stress, and contribute to an increase in domestic violence cases for both family members and the gamblers themselves.
Awareness of this issue is increasing, due to campaigns like National Problem Gambling Awareness Week which runs March 3-9 this year.
“The most important thing for people to realize is that there is help,” said Thielen, “There are resources online, over the phone, and in the community at agencies like Nicasa.”
Nicasa is one of only 15 agencies in Illinois licensed by the State to provide Gambling Intervention services and has been providing them since 2003 when the State began licensing gambling programs. Free consultations are available. Call (847) 546-6450 for an appointment.
Additional information on problem gambling is available at www.NPGAW.org.
Nicasa is a not-for-profit behavioral health services organization that is helping build brighter futures for vulnerable and at-risk children, adults, and families in Lake County and northern Illinois. Founded in 1966, Nicasa’s network of dedicated and caring professionals has been pioneering award-winning efforts in prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery. Core services include substance abuse treatment programs, in-school and after school programs, family therapy, Teen Court, parent education classes, counseling, comprehensive women’s services, and a residential recovery program. For more information about Nicasa visit www.nicasa.org.