What Parents May Not Know

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tammy rigsby
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What Parents May Not Know

Post by tammy rigsby » Mon Dec 29, 2008 9:54 am

Consider the following list of behaviors
 loss of control
 preoccupation
 moodiness and depression,
 a need to escape
 low tolerance for frustration
 denial
 having money one day and none the next
 secretiveness
 a need for immediate gratification.

Does this sound like I am talking about the behaviors of teens who may be abusing alcohol or other drugs? I am actually describing the behaviors of a teen with a gambling problem. Yes…gambling can be addictive to kids.

Problem gambling is referred to as a “hidden “addiction. While the symptoms to substance abuse are similar, there are no visible signs such as bloodshot eyes or staggered walking for parents to monitor. Gambling requires no ingestion of chemicals and you can’t “drug or urine test” for problem gambling. Problem gambling is a progressive disorder in which an individual has an uncontrollable inability to resist the impulse to gamble, resulting in damage to their education goals and relationships with loved ones.

Parents need to know that the fastest growing ranks of gamblers today are teenagers, and they are becoming addicted at alarming rates with adolescents being 4 times more likely than adults to become problem gamblers. Studies show that problem gamblers exhibit similar functional changes in their brain’s decision-making center as drug addicts and alcoholics. Linda Chamberlain, a gambling addiction expert at the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at the University of South Florida, says the neurobiology of what happens when somebody is gambling is much the same as what happens when they are taking cocaine.

Over the past decade, gambling has skyrocketed among adolescents, warranting immediate attention from parents and educators. The glamorization of gambling with its million dollar prizes and media events, such as Texas Hold’em and the World Poker Tournaments, can be an irresistible lure to young, impressionable minds. In addition, the technological advancements of the Internet have placed gambling access in every home and college campus dormitory. While the gambling most students engage in involves gaming cards, sports bets among their friends and family, games of skill such as video games, dice games, board games, bingo and the lottery; many parents look at such forms of gambling as harmless, assuming that it’s better for a kid to be gambling than to be out on the streets doing drugs or other risky behaviors. But the truth is that gambling is “risky behavior” and children can and do become addicted to the “high” produced from the activity.

Parents need to be proactive in watching for signs of substance abuse while being aware that they may indicate a problem with gambling. While unaccounted for time away from home and a mysterious need for money are certainly indicative of a substance abuse problem, parents should not be relieved upon discovering the unaccounted for time and the money spent was due to gambling. These are clearly signs of problem gambling. Early on, parents may have even noticed an intense interest in watching or listening to sporting events, a preoccupation with Internet gambling or even blatant boasting about winnings. Gambling among adolescents can start with taking risk in the form of a “dare” and risking personal belongings (i.e. electronics, sneakers) as the prize. Parents and educators are unaware that by not responding to their actions, they send the message that these behaviors are acceptable and healthy.

The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) developed the “PTA Toolkit” to empower parent and teacher organizations with the necessary materials to implement an awareness program at the community level. The kit includes a number of activities that creatively and effectively educate parents, teachers, and students on the growing issue of teen betting. In addition, a State approved Problem Gambling Prevention Program for Middle and High School Students is included on the toolkit. For more information and a FREE copy of the PTA Toolkit, call the FCCG HelpLine at 888-ADMIT-IT or go to the FCCG website at www.gamblinghelp.org.

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