Gambling Harm Reduction


Gambling involves risking something of value on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value. It includes games of pure chance like rolling dice or spinning a wheel, as well as those that involve skill such as card games and horse racing. While some forms of gambling are legal, many people still experience problems and harm caused by gambling. It can affect personal relationships, health and wellbeing, work and study performance and lead to financial ruin, homelessness, or even suicide.

There is a wide range of harm reduction strategies available, including community support groups and one-to-one counselling. The goal is to help gamblers recover from their addiction and regain control of their lives. It’s also important to remember that gambling doesn’t just affect the person who is addicted – it can hurt their family, friends and colleagues.

Many gambling addictions have roots in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood. Problems may be exacerbated by poverty, unemployment, mental illness or other factors. Vulnerability to gambling-related problems is higher among people with lower incomes, who may have more to gain with a big win and less to lose with a bad outcome, as well as younger people and men.

It is also harder for those with low self-esteem to admit they have a problem and seek help. They may hide their gambling and lie about it, blaming others for their addiction and believing that they will be able to win back their money or prove to others that they don’t have a problem. In addition, some people may be compelled to continue gambling despite losing money or accumulating debt, increasing their stakes in an attempt to recoup their losses.

A number of studies suggest that gambling is addictive because it activates the brain’s reward system in a similar way to drugs and alcohol. It can also trigger a chemical imbalance in the brain that changes how the body responds to pleasure and stress, leading to compulsive behaviour.

The key to preventing gambling-related harm is being aware of the risks and knowing when to say no. For example, never gamble with money that you need to save for bills or rent, and avoid taking out loans or credit cards to fund gambling activities. Likewise, never drink and gamble at the same time and always tip casino dealers and cocktail waitresses (cash or chips, not drinks). It’s also worth considering whether you need to make some lifestyle changes in order to reduce your gambling costs. For instance, if you live alone, consider getting a pet, finding a hobby, or joining a book club or sports team to meet new people and keep your mind off gambling. You could also join a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and helps people overcome their addictions.