Compulsive behavior and chemical addiction are very closely related disorders. Gambling addiction and alcoholism go tragically well together – one feeding the other until the addict is totally ruined. Help is available, but successful recovery requires that both problems are treated simultaneously in a fully integrated and holistic way.
How Gambling Addiction Affects the Brain
The brain controls the body through an intricate and fragile system of chemical signals in the central nervous system. Drug and alcohol abuse causes significant disruption to this system, but various behaviors can as well. The behaviors that affect this system are as follows:
- Risky thrill-seeking behaviors such as racing motorcycles or cliff diving cause the release of endorphins and adrenaline to speed up heart rate and respiratory function
- Sexual activity causes the release of special hormones and chemicals designed to establish relational bonds and comfort
- Eating causes the release of comforting or “reward” chemicals
- Pain causes the release of endorphins and other pain-dulling substances
- Exercise and physical strain also causes stimulation of the “pleasure center” of the brain
These chemical responses are designed to aid in human behavior, survival, and procreation, but can easily become out of balance. Even healthy behavior like exercise can become problematic for some people. The brain may develop a need for the chemical boosts that a certain behavior brings and thus will pull a range of psychological levers in the brain to keep the behavior and its corresponding chemical reaction coming.
Gambling – somewhat like shopping – involves both the fear of loss (risk) and the occasional reward of winning. Millions of people have become desperately addicted to gambling as a result.
How Alcoholism Affects the Brain
Alcohol affects the brain in much the same way. The euphoric high that comes with excessive consumption super-stimulates the same “reward center” of the brain. The result is a powerful psychological addiction as well as a strong physical need for alcohol. If left untreated, this disease will progress, getting worse and worse as the addict’s tolerance for alcohol – and gambling – increases. The result is a debilitating dependency that will cost the person dearly. Addiction can affect you in the following ways:
- Important relationships are sacrificed
- Physical health is destroyed
- Legal and financial problems mount
- Irreversible brain and nerve damage is very possible
How Successful Treatment for Alcoholism and Gambling Addiction Works
People struggling with both a gambling addiction and alcoholism will need comprehensive treatment that offers some of the following therapeutic tools:
- Personal counseling
- Support group environments
- 12-step programs
- Yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and other new-age treatments
- Spiritual support
- Strategic preparation for life after treatment
- Ongoing relational support, accountability, and counseling
Many people have received treatment for their alcoholism but not their gambling addiction, or vice versa. The result is relapse. The mind must be fully rehabilitated from the psychological effects of addiction in general if long-term recovery is to be realized.