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What’s Worse?
Many people face various addictions in the world today such as, drug, alcohol, sex, eating, or gambling addictions. One might ask the question, is one addiction more serious than another or are all addictions equally destructive? In particular, is an addiction such as gambling as serious as an addiction to drugs or alcohol? Research suggests a gambling addiction is less severe than a drug or alcohol addiction because drug or alcohol addictions are psychological and physical, can cause other addictions, can result directly in deaths, and can require medical intervention.

“Pathological gambling is an impulse-control disorder that results in disruptions of personal, family, and vocational activities” (Ledgerwood). Gambling is a “prevalent recreational behavior”(Potenza). This means gambling is an activity many people partake in around the world. “Eighty percent of Americans participate in some form of gambling”(Chadwick), but only “5% of adults have been estimated to experience problems with gambling”(Potenza). The most severe form of gambling is called pathological gambling, and it is recognized as a mental health condition. Pathological gambling is characterized by a “persistent mal­adaptive pattern of gambling behavior”(Grant). Core components of addictions have been proposed to include “continued engagement in a behavior despite adverse consequences, diminished self-control over engagement in the behavior, and an appetitive urge or craving state prior to the engagement in the behavior”(Potenza).

An addiction to gambling can cause one to have financial and psychological issues, but one would not have any physical issues. The differences between the two problems are largely the fact that long-term illicit drug use can cause serious chronic health problems and problem gambling leaves long-term financial issues, but it does not leave any health issues for the pathological gambler. A heroin addict can have major withdrawals from just one dose of the drug. “Withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, aches and pains in the bones, diarrhea, vomiting and severe discomfort”(Immediate). These symptoms are just some of the minor struggles a drug addict has. They experience weakening of the immune system, comas, respiratory illnesses, muscular weakness, partial paralysis, and loss of memory and intellectual performance. Those physical effects do not occur in a gambling addict, because a gambling addiction is primarily psychological. A drug or alcohol addict not only has health and physical problems, but also has physiological problems. Alcohol addictions can also cause many physical issues such as alcoholic hepatitis, increase ones risk of cancer, and severely damage ones brain.

Even though a pathological gambler has many struggles to deal with they do not have nearly as many as a person addicted to drugs or alcohol. Because of the all the effects a drug or alcohol addiction can cause and a gambling addiction cannot, a gambling addiction is not as severe as a drug or alcohol addiction. Gambling addictions do not cause drug or alcohol addictions; however, drug or alcohol addictions can cause a gambling addiction. “Anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of people with substance abuse problems also have significant gambling problem”(St. Michael’s). Substance abusers who resort to gambling become addicted to not just one bad habit but two. It is then more likely for the addicts to have “attempted suicide at some point in their lives and to have reported problems with sexual compulsivity”(St. Michaels’s). Those who struggle with gambling addictions do not feel the need to use drugs because gambling gives them the rush they desire, but people who are addicted to drugs are forced to spend an excess amount of money to support their spiraling drug habit. It requires them to have to find an alternative way to fund their drug addiction, leading them to gambling.

Gambling on occasion does not seem like a huge issue to them, but then it becomes a bigger habit for which they will eventually need treatment. Since gambling addiction does not lead to drug addiction, it should not be classified on the same level of seriousness. Drug and alcohol addictions result in many deaths of teenagers, young adults, and adults. If a drug addict overdoses, he or she will die directly from his or her addiction. An alcoholic could do the same, if he or she were to get alcohol poisoning. Research shows “the death toll has doubled in the last decade, now claiming a life every 14 minutes”(Girion). These people addicted to drugs can die in many other ways too. For example, “a 19-year-old Army recruit, who had just passed his military physical, took a handful of Xanax and painkillers while partying with friends”(Girion) and died. People under the influence of drugs and alcohol cause many accidental deaths, including their own. According to the U.S.

Department of Transportation in 2010, 10,288 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes accounting for nearly one-third of all traffic related deaths. On the other hand, a gambling addiction can cause one to lose all of his or her money, become depressed, and commit suicide. The final outcome would then be an indirect death caused by gambling. But, pathological gambling does not directly lead to death like a drug or alcohol addiction can. A drug or alcohol addiction can be treated with medication along with therapy, but a gambling addiction is treated mostly with therapy. For a drug addiction, “Medications can be used to help reestablish normal brain function and to prevent relapse and diminish cravings”(Drugfacts). There are three medications that have been FDA approved to treat alcoholics, “naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram”(Drugfacts).

Unlike a drug or alcohol addiction, “there are no medications currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of gambling addiction”(Fong). Having to take medications as part of the treatment process of a drug or alcohol addiction adds a whole other level of complexities and risk factors. Pathological gambling is a serious issue that our society needs to continue to fight and try to prevent. However, on the spectrum of all addictions, drug and alcohol addiction would be more severe than a gambling addiction. Although pathological gambling is harmful and destructive, it does not cause physical harm and requires a lesser amount of resources to treat the problem compared to a drug or alcohol addiction.

Works Cited

Chadwick, Meloney C. “Gambling.” Gambling. GPSolo Magazine, Oct.-Nov. 2004. Web. 04 Dec. 2013. “DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. NIH, Sept. 2009. Web. 03 Dec. 2013. Fong, Dr. “Seeking Help for Gambling Addiction.” Consults Seeking Help for Gambling Addiction Comments. New York Times, 1 Nov. 2010. Web. 03 Dec. 2013. Girion, Lisa. “Drug Deaths Now Outnumber Traffic Fatalities in U.S., Data Show.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 17 Sept. 2011. Web. 03 Dec. 2013. “Immediate Effects of Heroine Use, Overdose, Withdrawal & Extreme Pain: Foundation for a Drug Free World.” Immediate Effects of Heroine Use, Overdose, Withdrawal & Extreme Pain: Foundation for a Drug Free World. Foundation for a Drug-Free World, 2006. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. Ledgerwood, David M. and Nancy M. Petry. “Current Trends and Future Directions in the Study
of Psychosocial Treatments for Pathological Gambling” Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14.2. Apr. 2005. Web. Nov. 21, 2013. Potenza, Marc N. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, The Neurobiology of Addiction: New Vistas 363.1507. Oct. 12, 2008. Web. Nov. 20, 2013. St. Michael’s Hospital. “Links made between problem gambling and substance abuse, and lack of treatment options.” ScienceDaily, 4 Sep. 2013. Web. 2 Dec. 2013. Upfold, Darryl. “Helping Professionals.” Gambling and Substance Abuse: A Comparison. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.

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