Problem gambling, college and ADHD

If you are attending college, you probably don’t realize that just a few short years ago gambling was not part of everyday American life.  Today gambling is as common as alcohol in college life.  There are gambling opportunities everywhere:   Vegas vacations targeting the spring break crowd, state-run lottery tickets at every corner store, Native-run casinos just up the road, slot games can be joined from every computer, and dorm room card games are a Friday night ritual.

Gambling isn’t that big a deal, right?

Wrong!  Most people don’t think of gambling as being that much of a problem, so it gets little attention.  But did you know that nearly 10% of college students qualify as problem gamblers?  That’s a higher number than for adults!

Think you don’t know anyone with a gambling problem, think again.  Statistics show that at least 1 person sitting around the 10 person table at your seminar has a gambling problem or 30 people in that lecture hall are spending too much money on gaming.

ADHD and Gambling:  a bad combination

Students with ADHD are especially at risk for developing a gambling addiction. In fact ADHD students have an even higher rate of problem gambling than other college students – as many as 19% (nearly 1 in 5) college students with ADHD have a problem with gambling.

Researchers are still teasing out why this is the case.  But if you have lived with ADHD it’s pretty easy to make the connection between problem gambling and ADHD.  Impulse control is a hallmark of ADHD, and impulse control is a hallmark of addiction.  Gambling is also exciting and can feed the ADHD brain’s craving for stimulus and excitement.

Researchers have found that there are strong associations between ADHD and addictive behavior, including substance abuse, alcoholism, and nicotine dependence.

Do you have a gambling problem? 

The National Council on Problem Gambling offers this checklist:

10  Questions About Gambling Behavior

1. You have often gambled longer than you had planned.
2. You have often gambled until your last dollar was gone.
3. Thoughts of gambling have caused you to lose sleep.
4. You have used your income or savings to gamble while letting bills go unpaid.
5. You have made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling.
6. You have broken the law or considered breaking the law to finance your gambling.
7. You have borrowed money to finance your gambling.
8. You have felt depressed or suicidal because of your gambling losses.
9. You have been remorseful after gambling.
10. You have gambled to get money to meet your financial obligations.

If you or someone you know answers “Yes” to any of these questions, consider seeking assistance from a professional regarding this gambling behavior by calling the National Problem Gambling HelpLine Network (800.522.4700) toll free and confidential throughout the U.S.

Facts sited in this post are primarily drawn from these two excellent research reports on ADHD and college gambling:

http://www.camh.net/egambling/issue2/clinic/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775442/

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