Last week, January 22-25th was National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW). Area schools and groups held contests, activities, and informational meetings about facts surrounding substance use and misuse. A coalition member, The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ), wrote an informative article that showed more facets of addiction studies as part of NDAFW. We are grateful for our many wonderful and active coalition members that give us insight and support. Please read the below guest blog entry from Olubukunola Oyedele, MPH, Public Health Specialist from the CCGNJ.
Studies have repeatedly shown that Substance Use Disorder and Gambling addiction are an especially dangerous combination that can cause significant harm to the afflicted individual and his or her family. The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ) is dedicated to joining the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in educating parents, educators and teens themselves during the National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW) in shattering the myths about alcohol or drug misuse including vaping and gambling. While substance addictions are ingested, gambling is an addiction to an activity. With Teens, gambling is not limited to just brick and mortar casinos, but through video games, online casinos and other social games, as well as fantasy sports contests. Teens engage in these activities, even though a few of these avenues are restricted for teens under 18 (fantasy sports and online casinos). In addition, adults gifting lottery tickets to teens (even though they are not allowed to buy one themselves until they are 18), is a huge indication that gambling in teenagers is more pervasive than we would like to admit. In a study by Colin et.al both parents and adolescents report gambling as less concerning compared to alcohol and drug usage (Colin et.al. 2011).
Unfortunately, this perception is why there is a lack of recognition of the signs of increased gambling problems amongst teenagers. This perception has also caused confusion when what appear to be signs of drug/alcohol usage are instead early signs of a gambling/gaming addiction. While substance addiction has visible physical clues, gambling can remain a hidden addiction. However, there are some similarities which include; isolation, dramatic mood swings, abnormal eating or sleeping, dropped grades, preoccupation, change in activity level, weight loss or weight gain, lying or hiding actions or behaviors in order to cover up the addiction and the inability to stop or control the addictive behavior regardless of the consequences or previous outcomes.
The council wants to encourage every parent and educator to become aware of the signs and risk of problem gambling and educate their teenagers. In addition, please remember that help is available. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call 800-GAMBLER. We offer support, treatment, and hope and remain just a phone call or click away. Olubukunola Oyedele, MPH