Gambling Addiction

The importance of problem gamblers maintaining abstinence

At certain points along the recovery journey, it is possible to forget how desperate and lonely one’s problem gambling behaviour actually was. After a spell of abstinence, it may be that amnesia sets in about how bad the problem had become.

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A wishful fantasy can be constructed that the next time will be different and that future gambling can be made to pay. Self-control and self-disciple, as if by magic, can be restored and that this new found way of operating can allow a period of successful gambling.


The fantasy may be nurtured whereby a successful strategy of staking is envisaged that avoids self-defeating actions such as chasing loses and entering into reckless trades.


What is Passive Gambling?


Passive gambling could be seen as mental processes that fantasise about outcomes or involve some other form of speculation about making life decisions. Problem gamblers may do this even during periods of abstinence.


What is Active Gambling?


Active gambling is when the money is put down on the outcome of an event or game.  Active gambling for ex-problem gamblers almost always leads back to the old ways of addictive patterns. It is usually the case that a strict abstinence programme needs to be rigorously maintained in order to stay on a recovery path and to steer clear of gambling addiction.


A recovery journey should have some way of being reminded of how unmanageable life had become.


For some, it can be useful to attend 12 step meetings such as Gamblers Anonymous.


For others, it can be beneficial to stay in touch with their addiction treatment services, whether that is by continuing to see a therapist or by attending group therapy sessions at a clinic or rehab.


This can help to guard against complacency that can be counter-productive when seeking to maintain abstinence from gambling.


Once a problem gambler starts to gamble again the pain of losing can reacquaint them with old feelings of loss, depression and anxiety. Sooner or later there is a reengagement with the old familiar feelings of self-loathing, guilt, remorse, regret, fear and self-hatred.  That excruciating emotional merry-go-round of impending losses and near-miss wins can be exhausting.


An obsession to recover loses almost inevitably takes over and previous abstinence periods can count for little. No matter how long someone has refrained from gambling there are usually a resurgent internal chaos and an accompanying impatience with life.


The gambling begins to take priority over everything else. Things on to-do lists get left and remain incomplete and there is little or no available time to engage with friends and family. Daily chores become a source of huge irritation. This is when problem gamblers talk about wanting to be in the so-called permanent ‘zone of gambling’ where the main priority is to ensure that gambling funds are not depleted.



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The importance of knowing personal triggers


A lot of addiction can be restricted by limiting opportunity. Ex problem gamblers, for example, can be particularly challenged by the sudden availability of funds or by having lots of spare time to indulge in their old habit. No matter how long someone has stopped there might still be subtle yet toxic triggers to gamble again.


It is important to be aware of your own personal triggers in order to maintain personal abstinence from problem gambling.


These triggers may be seemingly obvious such as experiencing periods of boredom or special sporting events looming on the calendar. Other triggers might be more subtle such as when a partner suddenly has to leave town for work or to attend to family commitments elsewhere.


Having spare time can suddenly create obsessive thoughts and fantasies that this time it will be different and the big win is just around the corner. Other triggers can be less subtle such as personal or family anniversaries that have the potential to create unconscious impulses to escape difficult states of mind.


There might also be an underlying desire to sabotage the solid foundations of one’s life by a period of exhilarating gambling. Other possible triggers could include dates or times of year which might also present unconscious fears about economic viability and well-being.


Know your safeguards


It is important to put in place safeguards to protect against sudden and impulsive desires to gamble.


Self-exclusion from gambling operators could be explored as well as investigating how gambling blocking software could be utilised in order to maintain abstinence from online gambling. You could restrict your bank cards from being used for gambling. Perhaps a loved one could control your access to your funds.


These measures might not represent a total guard against danger. However, the greater amount of time that you need to undertake to find and gather funds for gambling the less likely it is that you will act on impulse.


Problem gambling can be an impulse control disorder and it is vital that safeguards are in place to protect against potentially reckless and spur of the moment actions.


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Treatment options

Gambling addiction can be seen as a slavish compulsion to pleasure and an obsessive and compulsive activity in search of emotional satisfaction, comfort and security. The repetitive behaviour is seeking to ‘fix’ feelings rather than allowing the ‘feeling of feelings’.


An abstinence-based treatment programme is nearly always the most effective treatment option for problem gamblers.


Once stopped the key is to engage with a way of living that continually offers support for ongoing emotional stress.


The tools and techniques contained within Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) can be useful in helping to bring insight into problem behaviour, investigating sources of discomfort as well as assessing risk and reward.


Gambling addiction can also be a way of self-medicating to help deal with underlying emotional issues such as bereavement, loss, sadness, trauma and anxiety.

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The process of recovery can begin once a problem gambler accepts that they have lost control and are prepared to work towards a period of abstinence.


Letting go of past losses can be painful but can ultimately bring about a form of healing which can facilitate a greater emphasis on the here and now.


An effective relapse prevention strategy, maintained on a daily basis, can help engender more enthusiasm for re-engaging with life in a more meaningful manner.



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    Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

    The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

    Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

    • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
    • Lorazepam (Ativan)
    • Diazapam (vailium)

    Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

    There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

    • Naltrexone
    • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
    • Nalmefene
    • Acamprosate (campral)

    Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

    There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

    Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

    A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

    Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

    The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

    Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

    Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

    Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

    *based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

    There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

    If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

    If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

    Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

    How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

    There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

    Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

    There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

    Local treatment

    Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

    Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

    Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

    Treatment Away

    Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

    As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

    When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

    There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

    Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

    There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

    Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

    Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

    Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

    Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

    Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

    Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

    How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

    The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

    Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

    Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

    Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

    You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

    The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

    There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.