Are we doing enough for young people with gambling addictions?

Gambling AddictionCC: Jlaso at Pixabay

Today, the UK’s NHS announced that it would provide assistance for young people with gambling addictions. The aim of the National Problem Gambling Clinic is to help 13 to 25-year-olds with their struggle.

To anyone who has ever tried to gamble online or visit Las Vegas, the thought of a teenager struggling with a gambling addiction seems odd. However, according to some statistics, around 35% of 12 to 17-year-olds gamble at least once a week.

While it’s clear that young people gamble, this isn’t an issue that many people discuss. Following the NHS’s announcement, it may be useful for parents worldwide to understand what gambling addiction is, how to recognize it, and treatment methods.

The definition of a gambling addiction

Most people begin gambling for fun. They may place a bet on a sports event outcome, play on a slot machine, or engage in a game of cards with their friends.

The thrill of gambling is often exciting enough to lure a person back. When that person encounters an occasional win, they begin to crave a repeat experience. Winning results in the brain flooding with dopamine, especially when the player anticipates a loss. That flood of dopamine is quite similar to the experience someone will have when taking an addictive drug such as cocaine.

As dopamine levels start to drop, many people can regulate themselves and seek pleasure elsewhere. Or, they’ll accept that feeling pleasurable all the time isn’t an attainable state. In contrast, those who form a gambling addiction are persistently chasing the same high. Much like a drug addict, they’ll continue to turn to the addictive source even when the losses are great. That’s why it isn’t unusual to hear of a gambling addict risking their family’s property or failing to pay their rent.

How children become addicted to gambling

According to statistics from the UK, children with gambling addictions $20.39 per week. While that may not seem like a significant amount, it’s worth remembering that the stakes would become much higher if they could access their own funds.

Unlike children who were teenagers 10 years ago, the children of today are bombarded by gambling adverts on social media. Those who become interested in gambling may follow a gambling channel’s social media accounts. As there are no restrictions ensuring only age-appropriate persons follow such accounts, it’s easy for these actions to slip through the net. When they occur, social media algorithms result in children seeing adverts for more gambling providers.

Children who are interested in sports are more likely to see gambling ads too. This is because betting companies often sponsor sports teams, piquing a child’s interest as a result.

In contrast with adults, children are poor emotional regulators. Even older teenagers may struggle to convince themselves that the wins they experience won’t be frequent enough to continue gambling against the odds. Also, as many adults assume that gambling addictions aren’t an issue for kids, they may not attribute their child’s change in behavior to that particular source.

Treating gambling addictions in children

Treating a gambling addiction begins with noticing the signs. They include:

  • A child becomes preoccupied with past and future gambling events
  • They’re requesting more money from you
  • They cannot stop themselves gambling and become irritable if you ask them to do so
  • Lying to cover up their betting behaviour
  • Engaging in illegal activity to get more money

As a parent, you may also notice certain websites appear on their Internet history or particular apps on their phone.

Although there is no set treatment for gambling addictions, many find success with a combination of psychotherapy and abstinence. Your child’s psychotherapist may also recommend withdrawing them from addiction sources, including the Internet and smartphones.

By tackling issues early on, you can help your child secure a stronger financial future. If you suspect they’re suffering from a gambling addiction, seek help as soon as you can.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.