The Epidemic of Addiction

This post first appeared on Maryhaven’s One More Chance website.

fnl-omc-logoWe collectively shivered when recent news stories documented that Ohio leads the nation in opioid overdose deaths. More than 2,100 addicts in Ohio died from opiate overdoses in 2014, according to a state-by-state analysis of Center for Disease Control and Prevention records conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Opioid overdoses signal a person’s ultimate loss of control to a relapsing brain disease. That loss is a feeling gambling addicts often know as well.

Addiction to gambling is the only behavioral addiction recognized by mental health professionals and neuroscientists. When the American Psychiatric Association officially moved pathological gambling from the impulse-control disorder section of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to the addictions chapter in May 2013, it signaled a landmark decision that followed 15 years of brain research.

What we now know is that gambling addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that changes body chemistry and processes just like alcohol or drugs can do. The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services estimates that as many as 1.5 million people statewide are impacted by pathological gambling and 54,000 of our Franklin County neighbors are at risk of developing the disease.

More than a third of pathological gamblers suffer from dual addictions or mental illness, typically depression. An estimated one in five attempt suicide. This is a serious, debilitating chronic disorder.

Gambling addiction shares another grim characteristic with opiate addiction: it hurts everyone around it. Studies vary as to how many people are affected by a problem gambler’s behavior with estimates ranging from seven to ten for every one pathological gambler.

But, whatever the number, those living around pathological gambling struggle with persistent anger and anxiety and an overwhelming sense of mistrust and betrayal. These challenges often touch off a downward spiral into domestic violence, divorce, bankruptcy and/or theft. Children of gambling addicts may show more and greater behavioral issues, while spouses, partners or parents often end up with stress-related health issues. And, then, of course, there’s the financial impact.

Maryhaven, one of only six recognized gambling addiction treatment centers in Ohio, offers an array of educational and counseling services to pathological gamblers and to their families. Thanks to the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County, these services are free to Franklin County residents and are available in our offices, in your own home, or over the telephone. You can choose to work in group settings or one-on-one with an expert advisor.

Learn more. See info from our recent educational seminars and gain a better understanding of addiction and how to protect yourself, your family and your finances. Go to maryhaven.com/onemorechance.

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s findings expose more than just an opioid problem. They expose a broader epidemic, one that reaches beyond the pill, needle or slot machine lever into the hearts and minds of all those who cope with the disease of addiction.

About the Author

Bruce Jones

Administrative Coordinator LSW, LCDC III, NCGC I, OCPSA

Bruce is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and a Nationally-Certified Gambling Counselor Level I who has worked for Maryhaven since 2000. For the last 5 years, Bruce has been working with individuals, family members, and communities as the Administrative Coordinator for the Gambling Intervention Program. He saw the need for gambling services in Central Ohio in 2009 and asked Maryhaven to apply for a private grant from the Columbus Foundation to target help to those struggling with gambling addiction. The state then supplied funding after his vision was verified with the amount of clients seeking services that first year.