How has gambling affected you?

I don’t normally listen to the Radio 4 program “You and Yours” but while waiting in the car that was what I listened to earlier, and the subject for today was “How has gambling affected you?

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In my community activism I have found dealing with addictions has long been a reoccurring theme. When it comes to homelessness, it has become clear that a good many of the folk I engage with have addiction problems, particularly alcohol related and, to a lesser extent, non-prescribed drugs. The effects of such can be horrendous and dealing with it is fraught with problems. But it seems to me there are several other types of addiction, often a lot less obvious.

Today’s program started off with a mother telling the distressing story of her son who took his own life, partly as a result of his addiction to gambling, and this was something the family were not aware off until after the event. The program continued in this hard hitting vein, with a lot being shared that I was already aware off, like the causes and consequences of gambling addiction and how this could be dealt with. Listening to the stories brought home again how damaging gambling can be. Gambling is a much bigger problem than is often realized, partly because it is easy to hide, and like most other forms of addiction it is often a release from the stresses and anxieties of life, made easy because of easy access. Gambling outlets are readily available and anonymous. People can be quickly drawn in, e.g. by the Internet. While some gamble as a form of recreation, it is clear many do become hooked and the consequences of doing so can be devastating, and the program gave many examples of this.

It is not my intention to come up with pious platitudes or smart solutions, although I would like to see more control over the way gambling is promoted in our society, more protection for the vulnerable and more help for those who do become addicted. But the program did spur me to raise the matter here as a serious issue that is adversely affecting our society, and in a much greater way than many realize. While it is easy to focus on alcohol and drug addiction, especially given this is what I come across a lot more than gambling, yet gambling is a real issue, even if it is usually carried out in secret. But it is not the only significant non non-substance misuse form of addiction. I see the worrying consequences of pornography and something seemingly innocent, like the obsessive use of smart phones, these days in people’s life. I am all too aware that none of us are immune and what a blessing it is to be addiction free.

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