Gambling addict's debts raise flag to commanders
November 18, 2011
BAMBERG, Germany -- Pathological gamblers learn their obsession is easy to hide, but once it consumes their life, the addiction is difficult to conceal.
The signs become as noticeable as a wino begging for spare change.
Soldiers, civilians and spouses should not only be aware of how to seek help for a gambling addiction, but they should know how to help people they know who are gambling their life away.
"An addiction is an addiction no matter what it is," said Tonya Hancock, Bamberg's Army Substance Abuse Program prevention coordinator. "It starts out as a high, but then it turns on you. Then, it becomes I need this to get through the day."
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, pathological gamblers are unable to resist the impulse of gambling, which leads to severe personal or social consequences. The risk can begin in females between ages 20 and 40 and in males during early adolescence. Pathological gamblers often feel ashamed and try to avoid letting people know of their problem.
"One to three percent of the population is a pathological gambler," said Maj. Vahag Vartanian, Bamberg Behavior Health Clinic chief.
For those who do not get treatment, the gambling begins to take over, Hancock said, who refers people directed to ASAP for gambling to Vartanian. The metamorphosis begins to affect every part of a person's life; every aspect of the addict's life deteriorates.
"It affects everything," Vartanian said. "It gives you a rush and feeling of euphoria, but then it goes away quicker and quicker. You become psychologically and physically dependent on it. They continue using it despite knowing that it's causing negative effects. People have to understand that is what is happening and come seek help."
The best treatment for pathological gambling is cognitive behavioral therapy, which is an individual therapy, Vartanian said. People who suffer from alcohol and drug abuse, anxiety or depression could complicate the treatment.
"It can be eight to 10 sessions, or even more," Vartanian said. "You basically think about the reasons for why you gamble and the things you try to avoid."
Gambling starts to interfere with a person's job and relationships, Vartanian said. The addict's finances begin to dwindle. Money used to support a Family or pay bills becomes fuel to feed the gambler's addiction. Addicts start borrowing money to support their habit or some have gone as far as committing crimes to support their gambling addiction.
According to an FBI report, called The Insider Threat - An introduction to detecting and deterring an insider spy, there are a variety of reasons that increase the likelihood for someone spying against their employer:
A gambling debt is one of those motives.
"Gambling poses significant threats to the national security of the United States and its allies," said University of Illinois professor John W. Kindt, who wrote a book series about United States International gambling.
When Soldiers stop paying their bills, supporting their Family or gambling during duty hours, that is when an issue comes to the attention of commanders, Vartanian said.
"Any time there is a concern for the ability of the Soldier to do their job, due to any external. issues, that's when a command directed evaluation comes in," Vartanian said. "They will refer them to us and we will identify the problem."
Treating the addiction is about getting people involved, making low risk choices and protecting people they value and love, Hancock said.
Spouses can also get help at the Behavior Health Clinic for a gambling addiction, he said.
"We see spouses and I would encourage them to come," Vartanian said. "Most times people will not come forward with gambling until it is a problem"
With a gambling addiction, it is best to seek help earlier rather than later.
"You lose more than you win," Hancock said, "Until they admit they have a problem, they are going nowhere fast."