Addiction belongs in the mental health category. Just because we are an addict, and all of us have an addiction to something, doesn't mean we are outcasts. Addicts need love. Are you an addict with feelings that are long gone? Do you want to find them? Are you tired of being tired? Are you the mother, father, brother, sister, lover, partner, child, grandmother, grandfather, aunt or uncle of an addict and want to know what it looks like to help with healthy boundaries? Far too many are not taken seriously until its to late.

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  • New insights into a common problem
  • Brain's Reward Center
  • Addiction
  • Drinking Addiction Myths and Facts
  • Substance Addiction
  • 5 Myths about Substance Abuse and Addiction
  • Addiction issues Related issues Resources and references
  • Food Addiction
  • Gambling Addiction

​Too many are judged by their addictions. Many faces is very real symptoms. Many are alone, afraid, depressed, angry, and full of guilt. You hear the saying one day at a time well one day at a time for many is one second at a time. I know it is cliché to say "have you ever walked a mile in that person's shoes?" Really have you? Take a second, one second run your life through what it would be like to have experienced all that the addict has experienced. Yes many of us including my mom, die my husband dies, three friends die and my roommate runs over my cat all in one year. One year! Am I an addict? No! That doesn't mean I shouldn't or couldn't have been. I had every reason to be one. But just because I didn't take substances or drink a lot doesn't mean I wasn't an addict of some sort. Believe it or not, we all have an addiction of some sort. Some addictions are just more acceptable in society. ie workaholic doesn't mean that person doesn't feel any different than the "ADDICT" so to speak. We are just different. So the next time you go to have a cigarette or choose work over spending time with your family think about the word ADDICT. You feel the same pain, guilt, and frustration. So what makes you so different? We all go around on this Ferris wheel this hamster wheel called life. What makes the difference is when you decide to jump off stop judging each other and ASK for help. There is no shame in asking. As a community, a society, we are to not judge. We are to stick together. We are to help each other out. The more we reach out and find someone to help us through our difficult times the more we can pay it forward.

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I listened to a gentleman the other day talk about how when he went through his favorite coffee drive-through, He always paid for the person behind him. One day this man and woman were behind him, He was driving his work truck with his name and number on it. He gets through the drive pays for both his and theirs and doesn't think anything of it. Just happiness. So a few days later he gets a phone call from a lady. The lady speaks his name he says yes, she says you bought a coffee for my husband and myself the other day. He replies, yes I did, I hope you enjoyed it.

She says every day now my husband does the exact same thing. He not only has become a nicer person to others but he is much nicer to me.

She just called to say THANK YOU!!!

This is what I mean just one little thing of not judging another and being there to help and if you can referring them to someone who can. All of us deserve to be HAPPY!!!!

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Nobody starts out intending to develop an addiction, but many people get caught in its snare. Consider the latest government statistics:

  • Nearly 23 million Americans—almost one in 10—are addicted.
  • More than two-thirds of people with addiction abuse addictive drinks.
  • The top three addictions are marijuana, opioid (narcotic) pain relievers, and cocaine.

In the 1930s, when researchers first began to investigate what caused addictive behavior, they believed that people who developed addictions were somehow morally flawed or lacking in willpower. Overcoming addiction, they thought, involved punishing miscreants or, alternately, encouraging them to muster the will to break a habit.

The scientific consensus has changed since then. Today we recognize addiction as a chronic disease that changes both brain structure and function. Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain. This happens as the brain goes through a series of changes, beginning with recognition of pleasure and ending with a drive toward compulsive behavior.

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Pleasure principle. The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive substance, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal. In the brain, pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex (see illustration). Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center.

All substances of abuse, from nicotine to heroin, cause a particularly powerful surge of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The likelihood that the use of substances or participation in a rewarding activity will lead to addiction is directly linked to the speed with which it promotes dopamine release, the intensity of that release, and the reliability of that release.

Even taking the same addictive substances through different methods of administration can influence how likely it is to lead to addiction. Smoking addictive substances or injecting them intravenously, as opposed to swallowing them as a pill, for example, generally produces a faster, stronger dopamine signal and is more likely to lead to substance misuse.

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Addictive substances provide a shortcut to the brain’s reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbens with dopamine. The hippocampus lays down memories of this rapid sense of satisfaction, and the amygdala creates a conditioned response to certain stimuli.

Learning process. Scientists once believed that the experience of pleasure alone was enough to prompt people to continue seeking an addictive substance or activity. But more recent research suggests that the situation is more complicated. Dopamine not only contributes to the experience of pleasure but also plays a role in learning and memory—two key elements in the transition from liking something to becoming addicted to it.

According to the current theory about addiction, dopamine interacts with another neurotransmitter, glutamate, to take over the brain’s system of reward-related learning. This system has an important role in sustaining life because it links activities needed for human survival (such as eating and sex) with pleasure and reward.

The reward circuit in the brain includes areas involved with motivation and memory as well as pleasure. Addictive substances and behaviors stimulate the same circuit—and then overload it.

Repeated exposure to an addictive substance or behavior causes nerve cells in the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain involved in planning and executing tasks) to communicate in a way that couples like something with wanting it, in turn driving us to go after it. That is, this process motivates us to take action to seek out the source of pleasure.

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Do you have an addiction? Determining whether you have an addiction isn’t completely straightforward. And admitting it isn’t easy, largely because of the stigma and shame associated with addiction. But acknowledging the problem is the first step toward recovery.

A “yes” answer to any of the following three questions suggests you might have a problem with addiction and should—at the very least—consult a health care provider for further evaluation and guidance.

  • Do you use more of the substance or engage in the behavior more often than in the past?
  • Do you have withdrawal symptoms when you don’t have the substance or engage in the behavior?
  • Have you ever lied to anyone about your use of the substance or the extent of your behavior?

​Development of tolerance. Over time, the brain adapts in a way that actually makes the sought-after substance or activity less pleasurable.

In nature, rewards usually come only with time and effort. Addictive substances and behaviors provide a shortcut, flooding the brain with dopamine and other neurotransmitters. Our brains do not have an easy way to withstand the onslaught.

Addictive substances, for example, can release two to 10 times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards do, and they do it more quickly and more reliably. In a person who becomes addicted, brain receptors become overwhelmed. The brain responds by producing less dopamine or eliminating dopamine receptors—an adaptation similar to turning the volume down on a loudspeaker when noise becomes too loud.

As a result of these adaptations, dopamine has less impact on the brain’s reward center. People who develop an addiction typically find that, in time, the desired substance no longer gives them as much pleasure. They have to take more of it to obtain the same dopamine “high” because their brains have adapted—an effect known as tolerance.

Compulsion takes over. At this point, compulsion takes over. The pleasure associated with an addictive substances or behavior subsides—and yet the memory of the desired effect and the need to recreate it (the wanting) persists. It’s as though the normal machinery of motivation is no longer functioning.

The learning process mentioned earlier also comes into play. The hippocampus and the amygdala store information about environmental cues associated with the desired substance, so that it can be located again. These memories help create a conditioned response—intense craving—whenever the person encounters those environmental cues.

Cravings contribute not only to addiction but to relapse after a hard-won sobriety. A person addicted to heroin may be in danger of relapse when he sees a hypodermic needle, for example, while another person might start to drink again after seeing a bottle of whiskey. Conditioned learning helps explain why people who develop an addiction risk relapse even after years of abstinence.

Recovery is possible. It is not enough to “just say no”—as the 1980s slogan suggested. Instead, you can protect (and heal) yourself from addiction by saying “yes” to other things. Cultivate diverse interests that provide meaning to your life. Understand that your problems usually are transient, and perhaps most importantly, acknowledge that life is not always supposed to be pleasurable.

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The point in which your drinking crosses the line from social drinking to a dangerous form of addiction can sometimes be difficult to fathom. You may not even realize that you are drinking more than you used to or that your usage has crossed the line and become a problem. The moderate use of drinking or social drinking does not necessarily constitute abuse or addiction, but when drinking becomes a regular part of life and results in negative consequences, there could be a very serious problem. Addiction can seemingly sneak up on you and it may not be really easy to recognize in the beginning. Fortunately, there are many signs and symptoms that you can learn to look out for which may help you to be better prepared to recognize addiction early on and stop this dangerous problem in its tracks. The first step to healing from any addiction is to understand what it is, what causes it, how to recognize it, and how you can get help.

Is it Abuse or Addiction? addiction can cause serious problems in your life. Get help today!

Moderate drinking that is not combined with any negative consequences is considered ok and safe to take part in, however, when drinking results in trouble with the law, legal problems, relationship problems, or lowered productivity at work, home or school there could be a potential problem at hand. In the early stages, when there is no physical addiction to drinking, the problems that occur as a result of drinking are the result of abuse. Drinking abuse is not an addiction but it is a problem nonetheless. addiction is a more severe form of drinking abuse that is paired with a physical dependence on the substance that causes adverse reactions when the individual does not drink. Those who are addicted to drinking will continue to drink despite the known consequences that result from their drinking and they may suffer dire consequences within their family relationships, career, legal record, and financial statuses as a result of their decision to continue drinking. For the addict, these negative effects are just another burden of their addiction.

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Who is at Risk of Drinking Addiction? Some people are at a greater risk of falling victim to addiction than others. American Indians and Native Alaskans tend to have an increased risk of addiction as do those who come from a family with a background or history of drinking. Individuals who suffer from certain forms of mental illness such as depression or anxiety are also at an increased risk of becoming addicted to drinking as a result of their intended use of the substance as a means of self-medication.

Recognizing the Signs of a Drinking Problem. If your drinking has caused serious problems in your life, you have a drinking problem and should seek help! Other signs of a drinking problem include:

  • Drinking so much that you forget what happened while you were drinking
  • Drinking more than you tell yourself or someone you love you will drink, especially despite your intention to drink less
  • Feeling as though you need to drink in order to relax, have fun or be part of a group
  • Feeling ashamed of your drinking, yet you drink anyway
  • Feeling guilty about your drinking, yet you drink anyway
  • Hiding your drinking habits
  • Telling others that you don’t drink or that you drink less than you do
  • Causing family upset, worries, or other problems as a result of your drinking

If any of the above situations has happened or regularly happens then you may want to seek help for a drinking problem. Even social drinking can become a problem drinking especially when social drinking causes problems in your life.

Recognizing the Signs of Drinking Abuse. Drinking abuse is a mild to moderate drinking problem that is characterized as problematic drinking that is not accompanied by the presence of physical dependence. This does not mean that there will not be or can not be serious consequences as a result of drinking abuse. Those who suffer from drinking abuse are able to control their drinking to some extent but they still tend to take part in destructive behaviors that can pose a significant risk to themselves and to others when they are under the influence of drinking. Additional signs of drinking abuse include:

  • Risky behaviors while drinking. Drinking abusers tend to take part in a promiscuous activity, dangerous activities, or otherwise improper activities while they are drinking. Most would not partake in such activities if they were not drunk.
  • Using drinking at work, school, or while performing important duties at home. Many abusers will drink while they are at work, school, or while they are supposed to be handling important activities at home such as caring for their children or handling other commitments that should not be addressed while under the influence.
  • Drinking in dangerous conditions. Drink abusers will often drink and drive or drink and perform other dangerous activities such as operating heavy machinery.
  • Drinking and fighting with family members or loved ones. Drink abusers often drink despite their loved one’s request for them not to drink and these actions often result in fighting between one another. Getting drunk despite the known relationship stress that will come is a sign of drink abuse.
  • Getting in trouble while drunk. Many abusers will drink and drive which often results in DUIs. Other legal problems that could result from drink abuse include charges of disorderly intoxication, disorderly conduct, or related legal problems.
  • Spending money that was meant for bills on drinking. Drink abusers will often make up excuses as to why they can afford to spend money on drinking despite the fact that the money was intended to pay bills.

Recognizing the Signs of Addiction. Drink addiction is a more severe problem that often results from drink abuse. Drink addiction actually resembles drink abuse in many ways except that the consequences are typically more severe and they are combined with a physical dependence on the drink that makes it difficult for the addict to stop drinking even when they want to. The following symptoms are present when an individual is addicted to drinking:

  • Tolerance: prolonged use of drinking will lead to the need for more and more drinks in order to have the same effect. Tolerance is one of the first signs of drinking addiction and results when an individual needs more drinks in order to get buzzed or drunk than they used to.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: When you wake up in the morning, are you shaky? If you feel shaky or unwell until you have a drink, this is a sure sign of a physical dependence on drinking which is considered an addiction.
  • Lack of control: Do you lose control over your drinking? If you can’t control the number of drinks you drink despite your good intentions or the intentions of those around you then you are addicted.
  • Can’t Quit: Have you thought about the negative effects that your drinking is having on your life and decided to quit but you find that you keep drinking? If you’ve tried to quit drinking before and you are consistently unsuccessful in your efforts then you have a drinking addiction.
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Myth: Drinking is not physically addictive.

Fact: Drinking is one of the most physically and psychologically addictive substances available. When used with other addictions, drinking can lead to overdose and other physical health problems. Used long-term, drinking can lead to a number of withdrawal symptoms that are painful and difficult to cope with.

Myth: Food can absorb their drink and reduce the time that an individual is intoxicated.

Fact: Food does not absorb their drink and it has nothing to do with how long an individual remains intoxicated once they drink. Drinks will take approximately one hour to metabolize through the body per ounce. What this means is that for each beer, a glass of wine, or a shot of any drink that is consumed, a period of one hour will have to pass before the effects wear off.

Myth: Drinking addiction only affects those who lack the willpower to quit drinking.

Fact: Drinking is highly addictive that leads to physical and psychological dependence. Even people who are strong-willed and who want to quit drinking may have trouble stopping due to the withdrawal symptoms that are present with drinking addiction.

Myth: Drinking addiction only affects those who don’t have a good job.

Fact: There are hundreds of thousands of people who suffer from drinking addiction and still work good jobs. Many of these addicted are what is known as “ functioning alcoholics” and, although they do function and work, they are still addicted.

Myth: I drink responsibly so I am not addicted.

Fact: Addiction is not ALWAYS the result of being irresponsible and just because you are responsible, you don’t drink and drive or you don’t get in trouble when you drink, does not mean that you cannot still be suffering from an addiction.

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Addiction Help. Once you realize that you or someone you love is addicted to drinking, you can begin to make the proper preparations to seek help for your addiction. Many different forms of drinking addiction treatment are available to assist you in your recovery. If you’re ready to stop drinking and you’re willing to take the necessary steps to seek help, drinking addiction can and will become a part of your past and recovery will be in your future. No matter how bad your addiction is, how powerless you are feeling, or how much you think that you are going to be stuck with this addiction for the rest of your life, you can make the change and become sober at any time you choose. The first step to getting help for your addiction is to make the commitment to change. At this point, you’ve realized that drinking has more negative effects than it does positive ones and you’ve likely realized that there is a need for change in your life. The only problem is that you probably don’t know where to begin or how to find the help you need. The road to recovery will likely be a long and difficult journey but the end result is a rewarding and powerful feeling that you get when you know that you have completely overcome addiction.

Withdrawal Symptoms. Once you decide to quit drinking, you will be faced with a number of withdrawal symptoms that can be difficult to cope with and could lead you on a quick path to relapse if you aren’t prepared to deal with these symptoms.

The most common symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Shakiness, tremors, or Delirium tremens (DTs)
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Bad dreams or Nightmares
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Sweats, Cold clammy skin
  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Poor appetite

In some cases, drinking withdrawal symptoms can become severe and may warrant the need for immediate medical care. The following symptoms of drinking withdrawal are considered severe and should be monitored by a healthcare professional to ensure the safety of the recovering addict:

  • Hallucinations
  • delirium tremens
  • Fever that spikes rapidly
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Extreme agitation or anger
  • Confused mental state

Seek Immediate Medical Care if You Have Severe Withdrawal Symptoms

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Substance Abuse and Addiction Signs, Symptoms, and Help for Addiction Problems and Substance Abuse In This Article. Some people are able to use recreational or prescription medications without ever experiencing negative consequences or addiction. For many others, substance use can cause problems at work, home, school, and in relationships, leaving you feeling isolated, helpless, or ashamed.

If you are worried about your own or a friend or family member’s use, it is important to know that help is available. Learning about the nature of substance abuse and addiction—how it develops, what it looks like, and why it can have such a powerful hold—will give you a better understanding of the problem and how to best deal with it.

Understanding substance use, substance abuse, and addiction. People experiment with substances for many different reasons. Many first try it out of curiosity, to have a good time because friends are doing it, or in an effort to improve athletic performance or ease another problem, such as stress, anxiety, or depression. Use doesn’t automatically lead to abuse, and there is no specific level at which substance use moves from casual to problematic. It varies by individual. Substance abuse and addiction are less about the amount of substance consumed or the frequency, and more to do with the consequences of its use. No matter how often or how little you’re consuming, if your substance use is causing problems in your life—at work, school, home, or in your relationships—you likely have substance abuse or addiction problem.

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Why do some substance users become addicted, while others don’t? As with many other conditions and diseases, vulnerability to addiction differs from person to person. Your genes, mental health, family, and social environment all play a role in addiction. Risk factors that increase your vulnerability include:

  • Family history of addiction
  • Abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences in childhood
  • Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety
  • Early use of substance
  • Method of administration— smoking or injecting substance may increase its addictive potential

Substance addiction and the brain. Addiction is a complex disorder characterized by compulsive substance use. While different substances produce different physical effects, all abused substances share one thing in common: repeated use can alter the way the brain looks and functions.

  • Taking a recreational substance causes a surge in levels of dopamine in your brain, which trigger feelings of pleasure. Your brain remembers these feelings and wants them repeated.
  • If you become addicted, the substance takes on the same significance as other survival behaviors, such as eating and drinking.
  • Changes in your brain interfere with your ability to think clearly, exercise good judgment, control your behavior, and feel normal without substances.
  • Whether you’re addicted to inhalants, heroin, Xanax, speed, or Vicodin, the uncontrollable craving to use grows more important than anything else, including family, friends, career, and even your own health and happiness.
  • The urge to use is so strong that your mind finds many ways to deny or rationalize the addiction. You may drastically underestimate the number of substances you’ re taking, how much it impacts your life, and the level of control you have over your substance use.

How substance abuse and addiction can develop. People who experiment with substances continue to use them because the substance either makes them feel good or stops them from feeling bad. In many cases, however, there is a fine line between regular use and substance abuse and addiction. Very few addicts are able to recognize when they have crossed that line. While frequency or the amount consumed don’t in themselves constitute abuse or addiction, they can often be indicators of addiction-related problems.

  • Problems can sometimes sneak up on you, as your substance use gradually increases over time. Smoking a joint with friends at the weekend, taking ecstasy at a rave, or cocaine at an occasional party, for example, can change to using a couple of days a week, then every day. Gradually, getting and using it becomes more and more important to you.
  • If the substance fulfills a valuable need, you may find yourself increasingly relying on it. For example, you may take a substance to calm you if you feel anxious or stressed, energize you if you feel depressed, or make you more confident in social situations if you normally feel shy. Or you may have started using prescription medications to cope with panic attacks or relieve chronic pain, for example. Until you find alternative, healthier methods for overcoming these problems, your medication use will likely continue.
  • Similarly, if you use substances to fill a void in your life, you are more at risk of crossing the line from casual use to substance abuse and addiction. To maintain a healthy balance in your life, you need to have other positive experiences, to feel good in your life aside from any substance use.
  • As addiction takes hold, you may miss or frequently be late for work or school, your job performance may progressively deteriorate, and you start to neglect social or family obligations. Your ability to stop using is eventually compromised. What began as a voluntary choice has turned into a physical and psychological need.

The good news is that with the right treatment and support, you can counteract the disruptive effects of addiction and regain control of your life. The first obstacle is to recognize and admit you have a problem or listen to loved ones who are often better able to see the negative effects substance use is having on your life.

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MYTH 1: Overcoming addiction is simply a matter of willpower. You can stop using it if you really want to. Prolonged exposure to it alters the brain in ways that result in powerful cravings and a compulsion to use. These brain changes make it extremely difficult to quit by sheer force of will.

MYTH 2: Addiction is a disease; there’s nothing you can do about it. Most experts agree that addiction is a brain disease, but that doesn’t mean you’re a helpless victim. The brain changes associated with addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments.

MYTH 3: Addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can get better. Recovery can begin at any point in the addiction process—and the earlier, the better. The longer substance abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes and the harder it is to treat. Don’t wait to intervene until the addict has lost it all.

MYTH 4: You can’t force someone into treatment; they have to want help. Treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary to be successful. People who are pressured into treatment by their family, employer, or the legal system are just as likely to benefit as those who choose to enter treatment on their own. As they sober up and their thinking clears, many formerly resistant addicts decide they want to change.

MYTH 5: Treatment didn’t work before, so there’s no point trying again. Recovery from addiction is a long process that often involves setbacks. Relapse doesn’t mean that treatment has failed or that you’re a lost cause. Rather, it’s a signal to get back on track, either by going back to treatment or adjusting the treatment approach.

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Signs and symptoms of substance abuse and addiction. Although different substances have different physical effects, the symptoms of addiction are similar. See if you recognize yourself in the following signs and symptoms of substance abuse and addiction. If so, consider talking to someone about your substance use.

Common signs and symptoms of substance abuse

  • You’re neglecting your responsibilities at school, work, or home (e.g. flunking classes, skipping work, neglecting your children) because of your substance use.
  • You’re using substances under dangerous conditions or taking risks while high, such as driving while high, using dirty needles, or having unprotected sex.
  • Your substance use is getting you into legal trouble, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, or stealing to support a substance habit.
  • Your substance use is causing problems in your relationships, such as fights with your partner or family members, an unhappy boss, or the loss of old friends.

Common signs and symptoms of substance addiction

  • You’ve built up a tolerance. You need to use more of it to experience the same effects you used to attain with smaller amounts.
  • You take it to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms. If you go too long without It, you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.
  • You’ve lost control over your use. You often do it or use more than you planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may want to stop using, but you feel powerless.
  • Your life revolves around substance use. You spend a lot of time using and thinking about it, figuring out how to get them, and recovering from its effects.
  • You’ve abandoned activities you used to enjoy, such as hobbies, sports, and socializing, because of your use.
  • You continue to use substances, despite knowing it’s hurting you. It’s causing major problems in your life—blackouts, infections, mood swings, depression, paranoia—but you use it anyway.

Warning signs that a friend or family member is abusing substances. substance abusers often try to conceal their symptoms and downplay their problems. If you’re worried that a friend or family member might be abusing substances, look for the following warning signs:

Physical warning signs of substance abuse

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination

Behavioral signs of substance abuse

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems. May borrow or steal to get it.
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)

Psychological warning signs of substance abuse

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason

Warning Signs of Commonly Abused Substances

  • Marijuana: Glassy, red eyes; loud talking, inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; loss of interest, motivation; weight gain or loss.
  • Depressants (including Xanax, Valium, GHB): Contracted pupils; drunk-like; difficulty concentrating; clumsiness; poor judgment; slurred speech; sleepiness.
  • Stimulants (including amphetamines, cocaine, and crystal meth): Dilated pupils; hyperactivity; euphoria; irritability; anxiety; excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times; may go long periods of time without eating or sleeping; weight loss; dry mouth and nose.
  • Inhalants (glues, aerosols, vapors): Watery eyes; impaired vision, memory, and thought; secretions from the nose or rashes around the nose and mouth; headaches and nausea; the appearance of intoxication; drowsiness; poor muscle control; changes in appetite; anxiety; irritability; lots of cans/aerosols in the trash.
  • Hallucinogens (LSD, PCP): Dilated pupils; bizarre and irrational behavior including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations; mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with self or other objects, slurred speech; confusion.
  • Heroin: Contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light; needle marks; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing, sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite.

Warning signs of teen substance abuse. While experimenting with it doesn’t automatically lead to substance abuse, early use is a risk factor for developing more serious substance abuse and addiction. The risk of substance abuse also increases greatly during times of transition, such as changing schools, moving, or divorce. The challenge for parents is to distinguish between the normal, often volatile, ups and downs of the teen years and the red flags of substance abuse. These include:

  • Having bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils; using eye drops to try to mask these signs
  • Skipping class; declining grades; suddenly getting into trouble at school
  • Missing money, valuables, or prescriptions
  • Acting uncharacteristically isolated, withdrawn, angry, or depressed
  • Dropping one group of friends for another; being secretive about the new peer group
  • Loss of interest in old hobbies; lying about new interests and activities
  • Demanding more privacy; locking doors; avoiding eye contact; sneaking around

Getting help for substance abuse and addiction. Finding help and support for addiction

  • Visit a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in your area. See Resources & References below.
  • Call 1-800-662-HELP in the U.S. to reach a free referral helpline from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Recognizing that you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery, one that takes tremendous courage and strength. Facing your addiction without minimizing the problem or making excuses can feel frightening and overwhelming, but recovery is within reach. If you’re ready to make a change and willing to seek help, you can overcome your addiction and build a satisfying, addiction-free life for yourself.

Support is essential to addiction recovery. Don’t try to go it alone; it’s all too easy to get discouraged and rationalize “just one more” hit or pill. Whether you choose to go to rehab, rely on self-help programs, get therapy, or take a self-directed treatment approach, support is essential. Recovering from addiction is much easier when you have people you can lean on for encouragement, comfort, and guidance.

Support can come from:

  • family members
  • close friends
  • therapists or counselors
  • other recovering addicts
  • healthcare providers
  • people from your faith community

When a loved one has an addiction problem if you suspect that a friend or a family member has an addiction problem, here are a few things you can do:

  • Speak up. Talk to the person about your concerns, and offer your help and support, without being judgmental. The earlier addiction is treated, the better. Don’t wait for your loved one to hit bottom! Be prepared for excuses and denial by listing specific examples of your loved one’s behavior that has you worried.
  • Take care of yourself. Don’t get so caught up in someone else’s addiction problem that you neglect your own needs. Make sure you have people you can talk to and lean on for support. And stay safe. Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations.
  • Avoid self-blame. You can support a person with a substance abuse problem and encourage treatment, but you can’t force an addict to change. You can’t control your loved one’s decisions. Let the person accept responsibility for his or her actions, an essential step along the way to recovery from addiction.


  • Attempt to punish, threaten, bribe, or preach.
  • Try to be a martyr. Avoid emotional appeals that may only increase feelings of guilt and the compulsion to use substances.
  • Cover up or make excuses for the substance abuser, or shield them from the negative consequences of their behavior.
  • Take over their responsibilities, leaving them with no sense of importance or dignity.
  • Hide or throw out substances.
  • Argue with the person when they are high.
  • Take substances with the substance abuser.
  • Feel guilty or responsible for another's behavior.

Adapted from: National Clearinghouse for Alcohol & Drug Information

When your teen has an addiction problem discovering your child's use of substances can generate fear, confusion, and anger in parents. It’s important to remain calm when confronting your teen and only do so when everyone is sober. Explain your concerns and make it clear that your concern comes from a place of love. It’s important that your teen feels you are supportive.

Five steps parents can take:

  • Lay down rules and consequences. Your teen should understand that using substances comes with specific consequences. But don’t make hollow threats or set rules that you cannot enforce. Make sure your spouse agrees with the rules and is prepared to enforce them.
  • Monitor your teen’s activity. Know where your teen goes and who he or she hangs out with. It’s also important to routinely check potential hiding places for substances—in backpacks, between books on a shelf, in DVD cases, or in make-up cases, for example. Explain to your teen that this lack of privacy is a consequence of him or her having been caught using it.
  • Encourage other interests and social activities. Expose your teen to healthy hobbies and activities, such as team sports and afterschool clubs.
  • Talk to your child about underlying issues. Substance use can be the result of other problems. Is your child having trouble fitting in? Has there been a recent major change, like a move or divorce, which is causing stress?
  • Get help. Teenagers often rebel against their parents but if they hear the same information from a different authority figure, they may be more inclined to listen. Try a sports coach, family doctor, therapist, or substance counselor.

More help for addiction next step... Recovering from substance addiction. Addiction is a complex problem that affects every aspect of your life. Overcoming it requires making major changes to the way you live, deal with problems, and relate to others. Learn about the tools that can help you on your journey to sobriety. Read Overcoming Drug Addiction.

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Signs and symptoms of substance abuse and addiction Signs and Symptoms – Covers physical, behavioral, and psychological warning signs of substance use, as well as symptoms of substance dependence. (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence)

Are You Suffering from Adult ADHD and Addiction?

  • Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse – Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of substance abuse in yourself or a loved one. Includes tips for identifying teen substance abuse. (Childhelp)
  • Substance Abuse Symptoms Checklist – Checklist of substance abuse and addiction warning signs. Also, see Self-Test for Teenagers. (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence of the San Fernando Valley)

Is Your Home an Accomplice for Your Rebellious Teen?

You are Not Alone in Your Addiction

Teens and Drugs. What Parents Can Do

Why Newly Sober Alcoholics and Addicts Shouldn’t Date for a Year

Seven Things to Expect When You Go to Rehab

Common substances of abuse and addiction StreetTalk Pamphlets – Series of straight-talking pamphlets on the ever-changing world of street substances. Includes articles on crystal meth, ecstasy, heroin, and club substances, among others. (Do It Now Foundation)

Prescription Medicines: Abuse and Addiction (PDF) – Government guide to the growing problem of nonmedical use or abuse of prescription medicine. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)

Substance abuse and addiction in teens and young adults TeensHealth: Drugs and Alcohol – Straightforward talk on substance and drinking abuse in a question and answer format, written for teens. (Nemours Foundation)

The Parent Toolkit – Find articles, tips, and resources for raising addiction-free kids. (The Partnership for a Substance-Free America)

Help for substance abuse and addiction Narcotics Anonymous – Worldwide services for overcoming addiction, including a searchable database of local meetings and support groups. (Narcotics Anonymous)

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For most of us, having a healthy relationship with food is nothing but a forethought. Eating helps to build strong bones and muscles, replenishes vitamins and minerals and food is a vital source to promote life. Unfortunately, for some, food causes an uncontrollable craving that manifests as addiction and leads to excessive consumption of sugars and carbohydrates that leads to physical, emotional, and social consequences.

Until recently, many did not actually believe that there was a condition in which people could actually become addicted to food but recent scientific research has confirmed that food addiction is possible and does happen. Experiments in animals and in humans have shown that in some cases, the reward and pleasure centers that are triggered when using certain substances can also be activated with food. The probability of such addiction is highly likely with foods that are rich in sugar, fat, or salt but other foods can also play into an addiction as well.

What is Food Addiction? Get help today with your food addiction!

Food addiction is a disease similar to substance or drinking addiction in which a chemical reaction in the brain is triggered by certain behavior. With food addiction, the behavior that triggers the reaction is eating a particular food or a particular amount of food. This addiction manifests itself in the uncontrollable cravings that one has for excessive eating and typically involves eating salty, sugary, or carbohydrate-rich foods for satisfaction.

The cravings that a food addict will have to eat are so strong that the addict cannot control them and in many cases, food addiction will lead to a deteriorated quality of life. Physical, emotional, social, and spiritual happiness and well-being are all affected by food addiction. Once an individual who is addicted to food eats and experiences the “high” or pleasurable state that they feel when they are done eating, they will quickly feel the need to eat more or to eat again to feel that feeling.

Tolerance can build as an individual eats more and this can lead to a desire to eat even when they are already full. In fact, tolerance can result in an individual’s need to consume more and more food with less and less satisfaction from their eating over time. Because of the tolerance that builds, scientists believe that food addiction plays an important role in obesity and in the struggle to lose weight.

Food Addiction Symptoms. The symptoms of food addiction affect an individual physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. Food addicts gain pleasure from the anticipation of eating, the availability of food, or from actually eating food. This pleasure leads to excessive eating, typically of the wrong types of foods, which can lead to increased weight gain, poor self-image, and a range of other medical conditions. Oftentimes, food addicts do not even realize that they are addicted to food as their addiction and improper eating habits have simply become a way of life.

Early detection of food addiction is vital to the successful recovery of the individual. Further, the sooner that one realizes the need for help, the least chance there is for negative consequences to set in such as extreme weight gain, physical illness, or other problems that are associated with eating too much or consuming the wrong foods.

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Not all food addictions result in weight gain though. In some cases, an individual’s decision to consume large amounts of food is followed by excessive exercising, vomiting, or the use of laxatives to eliminate or reduce the number of calories that were eaten. This is known as bulimia. In other cases, excessive eating is followed by instances of limiting food for days or even weeks at a time which is a form of anorexia. Both of these eating disorders are characterized by addiction in some manner to food and can lead to extreme weight loss.

Physical Food Addiction Symptoms

  • Inability to control cravings for food or to control the amount of food that is eaten
  • Trying much different weight loss or diet programs but still excessively consuming food
  • Vomiting, using laxatives or exercising in excess to avoid weight gain as a result of over-consumption of food

Each of these physical symptoms of food addiction can lead to long-term consequences. Those who vomit regularly to overcome the fact that they ate a large amount of food is likely to suffer from tooth decay, esophageal problems, malnutrition, and a range of other issues as a result of their addiction. In time, an obsession with food, whether it’s an obsession with not eating, overeating and dieting to cover it up, or using diuretics or other methods to reduce weight from overeating, a food obsession can lead to rash physical problems and could even result in death if left untreated.

Social Symptoms of Food Addiction

  • eating behind closed doors to prevent others from seeing what you are eating or how much
  • avoiding social interactions because you feel like you cannot be around others due to a lack of ability to control your eating
  • avoiding social interactions because you don’t feel like you look good enough or have clothes that fit correctly due to your eating habits
  • stealing food from others
  • obsessing over food and paying more attention to the food that is being served than to those friends or family members with who you will be consuming the food

Socially, food addiction leads to an intense obsession with food that can distract us from the things that really matter such as spending time with friends or family members. In time, the food addict will find more time to spend with food and may spend less and less time socially interacting in a healthy way with others. Many food addicts will hide food or steal food from others so that they can secretly indulge on the foods behind closed doors.

Emotional Symptoms of Food Addiction

  • feeling ashamed about your weight
  • feeling depressed or sad about your weight or self-image
  • feeling hopeless when it comes to losing weight
  • eating when upset or depressed
  • eating as a reward for a job well done
  • eating when you are not hungry
  • becoming anxious or irritable when eating certain foods or when not eating or if there doesn’t seem to be enough food

Food addiction can have an adverse effect on our emotions that leads to mood swings and other mental health problems. Some food addicts will suffer from great depression or anxiety as a result of their inability to control their eating habits despite a desire to eat less and to improve their self-image. Others are emotional eaters who eat just because they are happy or just because they are sad but when these emotions take over their eating slips out of control.

Types of Food Addiction. Various types of food addiction exist. Some food addictions are marked by an individual’s desire to consume large amounts of food at one time (binge eating) while others are characterized by the obsession that an individual has with food (bulimia).

The most common types of food addiction are:

  • Binge eating – binge eaters will gorge themselves on large amounts of food such as sweets, salty foods or carbohydrates. They typically eat behind closed doors so that others do not know that they eat so much and they are not always binge eaters. Binge eating is usually an occasional practice and in many cases, this type of food addiction will go unnoticed for many years because the individual will exercise or perform other actions to prevent from gaining excessive amounts of weight that would lead others to discover their problem.
  • Anorexia – anorexic individuals will typically limit their food intake in an effort to stay thin no matter what the cost. Many anorexic eaters will only eat once per day or may not even eat every day and when they do eat, they only eat small portions of certain foods. Many will count how many bites they take or strictly measure the food that they place on their plates in an effort to reduce intake and monitor the amount of food that they consume.
  • Bulimia – bulimic individuals will eat as much as they want when they want to eat but they will later take extreme measures to prevent from gaining weight as a result of their uncontrolled eating. They may exercise excessively to burn calories or they will take laxatives or diuretics to prevent weight gain. Excessive eating followed by vomiting is another common symptom of Bulimia.
  • General Food Addiction – some people are just generally addicted to food and do not take extreme measures to cover their addiction up or to hide the symptoms of their addiction. These people will excessively consume salty foods, sugary foods, or other types of foods and such consumption is likely to lead to weight gain, health problems, and other consequences for the individual but despite the consequences, the individual continues to feel a burning desire to continue eating.

Identifying Trigger Foods. Are you ready to accept that you have a food addiction and need help? One of the first steps that you can take in overcoming food addiction on your own is to identify trigger foods that may be at the root of your addiction.

You can identify trigger foods by:

  • Keeping a food diary that logs the food you eat, when you eat, why you ate, how you felt before you ate, and how you felt after you ate. Also, keep track of the amount of food you eat.
  • After a week or two, review the diary and look for a pattern in your eating. Are you eating when you are sad, mad, happy, or bored?

By keeping a food diary and monitoring the diary to determine which emotions or situations trigger you to eat, or which foods are your downfall you can take steps to get rid of such situations, change such behaviors or eliminate certain dangerous foods from your diet.

More Self Help for Food Addiction. Once you have your food diary in your hand and have kept careful track of the foods that you eat, when you eat, how much you eat, and why you eat you can begin to formulate a plan to stop these bad eating habits and to later take on healthy eating habits that will work for you. Follow these steps to ridding yourself of food addiction and get back on track with some healthy eating habits.

  • Slowly eliminate trigger foods from your diet. You don’t have to eliminate foods all at once but if you realize that fast food is your downfall, consider not eating fast food anymore or think about limiting your consumption. Say you eat fast food 5 days per week, limit yourself down to eating fast food once per week. You can even taper this off slowly such as by limiting your fast food down to three days weekly and then gradually down to only once per week or not even every week.
  • Replace bad foods with good foods. If you are a binge eater or you just like to consume food, there are foods that you can eat a lot without consequences. Fresh fruits and vegetables are at the top of the list of good foods that you can eat a lot without guilt. As you eliminate one food from your triggers list, try replacing it with a healthy fruit or vegetable option.
  • Cope with cravings. If you are craving a particular food such as chocolate or salty potato chips, consider asking yourself why you want to eat that food. Are you just bored? Are you lonely or upset? Most of the time, food cravings are our brain’s method of overcoming or coping with a particular emotion and have nothing to do with our own actual hunger. If you are craving a particular food, commit to yourself to take some time before you make the final decision to eat the food, or try to distract yourself from thinking about the food by taking a walk, calling a friend, or connecting with another method of support.
  • Distractions are key. Oftentimes, food addiction is the direct result of boredom or a feeling of helplessness when it comes to losing weight. If you’ve fallen victim to the “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude in which you have tried dieting but just can’t seem to lose the weight, consider making an honest attempt to find more distractions. Distract yourself by going to the gym, playing a game, or taking part in another activity.

Treatment for Food Addiction. Scientists are still working to figure out and fully understand every facet of food addiction but there have been some treatments that have proven to be effective at helping people to come out on top of their addiction. Many argue that food addiction is actually more complicated than certain types of substances or drinking addiction simply because people can refrain from using substances or drinking but they cannot completely refrain from eating. This means that for those who do suffer from food addiction, there will always be the presence of food in their lives which can cause potential relapse.

Food addiction treatment typically consists of behavioral therapy, nutrition counseling, education, and social support. If an addiction to food is primarily the result of an emotional disorder such as anxiety or depression, psychological counseling and medication to treat the mental illness can often reduce the adverse addiction to food.

Nutritional counseling is often effective at helping those who are addicted to food to at least learn about the foods that are better for them so that they eat healthily. Nutritionists can help those with a food addiction by learning how to cook healthier meals, learn about the foods that they can indulge in, and learn about the foods that they can safely eat to make them feel full for longer. Healthy eating habits can become a normal part of everyday life for recovering food addicts with the help of some nutritional counseling, therapy, and support.

Support groups such as Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous are another option for treatment for food addiction. Individuals can get social support in a recovery group like this or Food Addicts Anonymous. Both of these support groups utilize the principles of the 12-step program to help food addicts to learn how to eat better, reduce their food intake, seek spiritual happiness and socially support one another.​

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Gambling Addiction and Problem Gambling. Warning Signs and How to Get Help In This Article Whether you bet on sports, scratch cards, roulette, poker, or slots—in a casino or online—problem gambling can strain relationships, interfere with work, and lead to financial catastrophe. You may even do things you never thought you would, like stealing money to gamble or pay your debts. You may think you can’t stop but, with the right help, you can overcome a gambling problem or addiction and regain control of your life. The first step is recognizing and acknowledging the problem.

Understanding problem gambling and gambling addiction. Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones. Gambling is all they can think about and all they want to do, no matter the consequences. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they’re up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Even when they know the odds are against them, even when they can’t afford to lose, people with a gambling addiction can’t “stay off the bet.”

Gamblers can have a problem, however, without being totally out of control. Problem gambling is any gambling behavior that disrupts your life. If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences, you have a gambling problem.

Myths and Facts about Gambling Addiction and Problem Gambling:

MYTH: You have to gamble every day to be a problem gambler.

FACT: A problem gambler may gamble frequently or infrequently. Gambling is a problem if it causes problems.

MYTH: Problem gambling is not really a problem if the gambler can afford it.

FACT: Problems caused by excessive gambling are not just financial. Too much time spent on gambling can lead to relationship breakdown and loss of important friendships.

MYTH: Partners of problem gamblers often drive problem gamblers to gamble.

FACT: Problem gamblers often rationalize their behavior. Blaming others is one way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, including what is needed to overcome the problem.

MYTH: If a problem gambler builds up a debt, you should help them take care of it.

FACT: Quick-fix solutions may appear to be the right thing to do. However, bailing the gambler out of debt may actually make matters worse by enabling gambling problems to continue.

Signs and symptoms of problem gambling and gambling addiction. Gambling addiction is sometimes referred to as the "hidden illness" because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like there are in substances or drinking addiction. Problem gamblers typically deny or minimize the problem. They also go to great lengths to hide their gambling. For example, problem gamblers often withdraw from their loved ones, sneak around, and lie about where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to.

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Do I have a gambling problem? You may have a gambling problem if you:

  • Feel the need to be secretive about your gambling. You might gamble in secret or lie about how much you gamble, feeling others won’t understand or that you will surprise them with a big win.
  • Have trouble controlling your gambling. Once you start gambling, can you walk away? Or are you compelled to gamble until you’ve spent your last dollar, upping your bets in a bid to win lost money back?
  • Gamble even when you don’t have the money. A red flag is when you are getting more and more desperate to recoup your losses. You may gamble until you’ve spent your last dollar, and then move on to money you don’t have- money to pay bills, credit cards, or things for your children. You may feel pushed to borrow, sell, or even steal things for gambling money. It’s a vicious cycle. You may sincerely believe that gambling more money is the only way to win lost money back. But it only puts you further and further in the hole.
  • Family and friends are worried about you. Denial keeps problem gambling going. If friends and family are worried, listen to them carefully. Take a hard look at how gambling is affecting your life. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Many older gamblers are reluctant to reach out to their adult children if they've gambled away their inheritance. But it's never too late to make changes for the better.

Treatment and self-help for problem gambling and gambling addiction. Relieving unpleasant and overwhelming feelings without gambling. Unpleasant feelings such as stress, depression, loneliness, fear, and anxiety can trigger compulsive gambling or make it worse. After a stressful day at work, after an argument with your spouse or coworker, or to avoid more time spent on your own, an evening at the track or the casino can seem like a fun, exciting way to unwind and socialize. But there are healthier and far less expensive ways to keep unpleasant feelings in check. These may include exercising, meditating, spending time with friends, taking up new hobbies, or exploring relaxation techniques.

For many people, an important aspect of quitting gambling is to find alternate ways to handle these difficult feelings without gambling. Even when gambling is no longer a part of your life, the painful and unpleasant feelings that may have prompted you to gamble in the past will still remain. So, it’s worth spending some time thinking about the different ways you intend to deal with stressful situations and the daily irritations that would normally trigger you to start gambling.

Every gambler is unique and so needs a recovery program tailored specifically to him or her. What works for one gambler won’t necessarily work for you. The biggest step in treatment is realizing you have a problem with gambling. It takes tremendous strength and courage to own up to this, especially if you have lost a lot of money and strained or broken relationships along the way. Don’t despair, and don’t try to go it alone. Many others have been in your shoes and have been able to break the habit.

Overcoming a gambling addiction or problem is never easy. But recovery is possible if you stick with treatment and seek support. To find help in your area, see Resources and References below.

Group support for gambling addiction and problem gambling. Gamblers Anonymous is a twelve-step recovery program patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous. A key part of a 12-step program is choosing a sponsor. A sponsor is a former gambler who has time and experience remaining free from addiction and can often provide invaluable guidance and support.

Therapy for problem gambling. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for problem gambling focuses on changing unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts, such as rationalizations and false beliefs. It also teaches problem gamblers how to fight gambling urges, deal with uncomfortable emotions rather than escape through gambling, and solve financial, work, and relationship problems caused by the addiction.

The goal of treatment is to “rewire” the addicted brain by thinking about gambling in a new way. A variation of cognitive behavioral therapy, called the Four Steps Program, has been used in the treatment of compulsive gambling as well. The goal is to change your thoughts and beliefs about gambling in four steps; re-label, reattribute, refocus, and revalue. More comprehensive information about cognitive behavioral therapy and applying it to your situation is found below.

Seeing a therapist does not mean you are weak or can’t handle your problems. Therapy is for people who are smart enough to realize they need help. It can give you tools and support for reframing your thoughts that will last a lifetime.

Maintaining recovery for problem gambling and gambling addiction. As you may have noticed, quitting problem gambling is relatively easy. It’s staying in recovery- making a permanent commitment to stay away from gambling- that is such a challenge. Maintaining recovery for problem gambling and gambling addiction is possible if you surround yourself with people to whom you’re accountable, avoid tempting environments, give up control of your finances (at least at first), and find exciting or enjoyable activities to replace gambling.

Changing your lifestyle and making healthier choices. One way to stop yourself from problem gambling is to analyze what is needed for gambling to occur, work on removing these elements from your life and replace them with healthier choices. The four elements needed for problem gambling to continue are:

  • A decision: Before gambling occurs, the decision to gamble has been made. If you have an urge to gamble: stop what you are doing and call someone, think about the consequences to your actions, tell yourself to stop thinking about gambling, and find something else to do immediately.
  • Money: Gambling cannot occur without money. Get rid of your credit cards, let someone else be in charge of your money, have the bank make automatic payments for you, and keep a limited amount of cash on you at all times.
  • Time: Gambling cannot occur if you don’t have the time. Schedule enjoyable recreational time for yourself that has nothing to do with gambling, find time for relaxation and plan outings with your family.
  • A game: Without a game or activity to bet on there is no opportunity to gamble. Don’t put yourself in tempting environments or locations. Tell the gambling establishments you frequent that you have a gambling problem and ask them to restrict you from betting at their casinos and establishments. Block online gambling sites on your computer.

Maintaining recovery from problem gambling or gambling addiction depends a lot on the reasons why you were gambling in the first place. Once you’ve quit gambling, reasons such as depression, loneliness, or boredom will remain, so in order to maintain your recovery, you’ll need to address these problems. There are alternative behaviors you can substitute for gambling. Some examples include:

Reason for Gambling. Sample Substitute Behaviors. To provide excitement, get a rush of adrenaline

Sport or a challenging hobby, such as mountain biking, rock climbing, or Go Kart racing

To be more social, overcome shyness or isolation

Counseling, enroll in a public speaking class, join a social group, connect with family and friends, volunteer, and find new friends

To numb unpleasant feelings, not think about problems

Therapy, consult Help guides. Bring Your Life into Balance toolkit

Boredom or loneliness

Find something you’re passionate about such as art, music, sports, or books then find others with the same interests

To relax after a stressful day

As little as 15 minutes of daily exercise can relieve stress. Or deep breathing, meditation, or massage

To solve money problems

The odds are always stacked against you so it’s far better to seek help with debts from a credit counselor Dealing with gambling cravings. Feeling the urge to gamble is normal, but that doesn’t make it any easier when you are struggling to make better choices. Remember, as you build healthier choices and a good support network, resisting cravings will be easier and easier. The following strategies can help

  • Reach out for support. Call a trusted family member, meet a friend for coffee, or go to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting.
  • Do something else. Distract yourself from other activities, such as cleaning your house, going to the gym, or watching a movie.
  • Postpone gambling. Tell yourself that you'll wait five minutes, fifteen minutes, or an hour—however long you think you can hold out. As you wait, the urge to gamble may pass or become weak enough to resist.
  • Give yourself a reality check. Visualize what will happen if you give in to the urge to gamble. Think about how you’ll feel after all your money is gone and you’ve disappointed yourself and your family again.
  • Avoid isolation. If you gamble to socialize or be around other people, try healthier ways to build a social network. Volunteer, connect with old friends and make new friends.

If you aren’t able to resist the gambling craving, don’t be too hard on yourself or use it as an excuse to give up. Overcoming a gambling addiction is a tough process. You may slip from time to time; the important thing is to learn from your mistakes and continue working towards recovery.

Helping a family member with a gambling problem. Does my loved one have a gambling problem? If your loved one has a gambling problem, he or she might:

  • Become increasingly defensive about his or her gambling. The more a problem gambler is in the hole, the more the need to defend gambling as a way to get money. Your loved one may get secretive, defensive or even blame you for the need to gamble, telling you that it is all for you and you need to trust in the “big win someday.”
  • Suddenly become secretive over money and finances. Your loved one might show a new desire to control household finances, or there might increasingly be a lack of money despite the same income and expenses. Savings and assets might mysteriously dwindle, or there may be unexplained loans or cash advances.
  • Become increasingly desperate for money to fund gambling. Credit card bills may increase, or your loved one may ask friends and family for money. Jewelry or other items easily pawned for money may mysteriously disappear.

How to help with a gambling problem. Compulsive and problem gamblers often need the support of their family and friends to help them in their struggle to stop gambling. But the decision to quit has to be theirs. As much as you may want to, and as hard as it is to see the effects, you cannot make someone stop gambling.

If your family member has a gambling problem, you may have many conflicting emotions. You may try to cover up for a loved one or spend a lot of time and energy trying to keep him or her from gambling. At the same time, you might be furious at your loved one for gambling again and tired of trying to keep up the charade. The gambler may also have borrowed (or even stolen) money from you with no way to pay it back. He or she may have sold family possessions or run up huge debts on joint credit cards. When faced with the consequences of their actions, a gambler can suffer a crushing drop in self-esteem. This is one reason why there is a high rate of suicide among problem gamblers.

Preventing suicide in problem gamblers. When gamblers are feeling hopeless, the risk of suicide is high. It’s very important to take any thoughts or talk of suicide seriously. If you or someone you care about is suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255. For a suicide helpline outside the U.S., visit Befrienders Worldwide.

Tools for family members of problem gamblers:

  • Start by helping yourself. You have a right to protect yourself emotionally and financially. Don’t blame yourself for the gambler’s problems. The right support can help you make positive choices for yourself, and balance encouraging your loved one to get help without losing yourself in the process.
  • Don’t go it alone. It can feel so overwhelming coping with a loved one’s problem gambling that it may seem easier to rationalize their requests and problems “this one last time." Or you might feel ashamed, feeling like you are the only one who has problems like this. Reaching out for support will make you realize that many families have struggled with this problem. Or you might consider therapy to help sort out the complicated feelings that arise from coping with a problem gambler.
  • Set boundaries in managing money. If a loved one is serious about getting help for problem gambling, it may help if you take over the family finances to make sure the gambler stays accountable and to prevent relapse. However, this does not mean you are responsible for micromanaging the problem gamblers' impulses to gamble. Your first responsibilities are to ensure that your own finances and credit are not at risk.
  • Consider how you will handle requests for money. Problem gamblers often become very good at asking for money, either directly or indirectly. They may use pleading, manipulation, or even threats and blaming to get it. It takes time and practice to learn how you will respond to these requests to ensure you are not enabling the problem gambler and keeping your own dignity intact.

Do’s and Don'ts for Partners of Problem Gamblers


  • Seek the support of others with similar problems; attend a self-help group for families such as Gam-Anon.
  • Explain problem gambling to the children.
  • Recognize your partner’s good qualities.
  • Remain calm when speaking to your partner about his or her gambling and its consequences.
  • Let your partner know that you are seeking help for your own sake because of the way gambling affects you and the children.
  • Understand the need for treatment of problem gambling despite the time it may involve.
  • Take control of family finances; review bank and credit card statements.


  • Preach, lecture, or allow yourself to lose control of your anger.
  • Make threats or issue ultimatums unless you intend to carry them out.
  • Exclude the gambler from family life and activities.
  • Expect immediate recovery, or that all problems will be resolved when the gambling stops.
  • Bail out the gambler.
  • Cover up or deny the existence of the problem to yourself, the family, or others.

Source: Dept. of Mental Health & Addiction Services

More help for gambling addiction

Stress management

Resources, help, and support for problem gambling and gambling addiction

​The National Council on Problem Gambling Helpline – Offers a confidential, 24-hour helpline for problem gamblers or their family members in the U.S. Call 1-800-522-4700. (NCPG)

Gamblers Anonymous – Twelve-step Gamblers Anonymous program, an international support network of meetings to assist people who have a gambling problem. (Gamblers Anonymous)

Gamcare – Offers support, information, and advice for those with a gambling problem in the UK. Call the helpline 0845 6000 133. (Gamcare)

Gambling Help Online – Provides a 24-hour helpline in Australia for counseling, information, and referrals. Call . (Gambling Help Online)

Canadian Resources for Those Affected by Problem Gambling – Find help and information on problem gambling in your area of Canada. (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)

Signs and symptoms of problem gambling and gambling addiction what Is Problem Gambling? – Learn about the gambling continuum and the key differences between recreational gambling and problem gambling. (British Columbia Responsible & Problem Gambling Program)

Do I Need Help?: Helpful Questions for Self-evaluation – Includes questions for self-evaluation, as well as questions for family members who suspect a gambling problem. (Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services)

Gamblers Self-Assessment – Online questionnaire to help gamblers determine if they have a problem or a gambling addiction. (California Department of Public Health)

Treatment and self-help for problem gambling and gambling addiction. Your First Step to Change: Gambling – Self-change toolkit helps problem gamblers learn about their addiction and take steps to overcome it. (The Division on Addictions, Cambridge Health Alliance, and Harvard Medical School)

The Four Steps – Although the article is written for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, it outlines in more detail the four steps used in a variant of cognitive behavioral therapy, and how you can apply them to change thought processes and control impulses. (Westwood Institute of Anxiety Disorders, commercial site)

Freedom from Problem Gambling (PDF) – Self-help workbook for compulsive gamblers, with tips on how to avoid relapse and fight gambling urges. (UCLA Gambling Studies Program and California Department of Public Health)

Choosing a Treatment Facility – Learn what treatments are appropriate for problem gambling and what questions you should ask when looking at facilities. (National Council on Problem Gambling)

Problem Gamblers and their Finances (PDF) – In-depth guide for treatment professionals on how to help a problem gambler cope with financial problems and pressures. (National Endowment for Financial Education)

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