Gambling Addiction

Canadian Gambling Addiction Help Guide

When growing up in Canada, we are mostly talked to about drugs and alcohol, unprotected sex and other vices but not gambling addiction despite it being one of the most destructive when it comes to financial and mental well-being. People can become addicted to behaviours, such as gambling – known as process addictions. If you or a loved one are struggling with a gambling addiction, you can find help for the problem from a rehabilitation facility. In this article we’re going to discuss in detail the nature of this sort of addiction and provide some information about addiction and treatment. Once you’ve finished the article, you’ll be better able to know where and how you can find help.

Gambling addiction is only 3% of Canadians a problem. This percentage does not look big, but it represents around one million people who routinely overdo it with their betting. That doesn’t include the growing number of minors who also show symptoms and signs of gambling addiction. The remaining 97% of adult Canadians who engage in betting do it responsibly. To them, placing a wager is nothing more than a bit of harmless entertainment.

More and more people are showing symptoms of gambling addiction. Online casino games are available today at any time, including on mobile devices. The CasinoValley team knows the importance of responsible betting. They are well aware of the far-reaching consequences of irresponsible betting behaviour. The CasinoValley experts have collected a great deal of helpful information on the subject, and want to pass it on to you. They also offer solutions to the problem.

What Is a Gambling Addiction?

What is Gambling AddictionSomeone who struggles with an addiction to a behavior, is experiencing what is known as a process addiction. Process addictions arise when an individual is so infatuated with behaviour that they are unable to stop themselves from participating in the behaviour, despite the emergence of problems.

Addictive gambling behaviour is quite common. Gambling is legal, and there are no regulations placed upon the amount that a person can gamble. Many people begin gambling in hopes of getting lucky enough to support themselves or their family with a bit of extra cash, only to find that they become addicted to the process.

Then the addiction problem becomes a burning issue not only for the gamblers’ families and friends but also starts to attract the attention of many Canadian organizations, both governmental and private ones. Nowadays, problem gambling is handled practically by every Canadian province. It becomes the subject of various studies aiming at helping people to conquer their gambling addiction. Thus, Alberta Gambling Research Institute’s Grants represent a government-supported program that provides funding for various surveys, polls and the like. And no wonder, that one of the recent grants issued was the one for Online Gambling Self-Help and Motivational Enhancement Research.

Causes and Risk Factors for Gambling Addiction

Not everyone is prone to become a problem gambler. Some factors can make someone more or less likely to develop a problem with gambling.

The most important thing to recognize is that there is no specific cause that can lead someone down the path to addiction. Many factors can influence the development of a disease like cancer; many factors can contribute to the development of an addiction.

As you can see, there are a large number of factors that could lead someone to develop a gambling habit.

Process addictions like these are generally believed to be the result of various emotional and biological issues, thought processes, habits, and environmental factors. These are some of the most common risk factors that can lead someone to become a problem gambler.

  • People struggling with addictions to drugs like alcohol, cocaine, or benzodiazepines may be more likely to become problem gamblers. These drugs are known to reduce a person’s inhibitions and may make them more likely to gamble their money away.
  • Individuals with financial problems are generally more likely to develop gambling problems. The possibility of winning large sums of money is appealing to many and can lead people down the path to addictive gambling.
  • People who seek novelty or minor adrenaline rushes are more likely to gamble.
  • People living in areas where gambling facilities are readily available, such as in Las Vegas, are more likely to develop a habit.
  • People who have recently experienced an emotionally traumatizing situation, such as a divorce or the death of a loved one, may be more likely to turn to gamble.
  • People struggling with schizophrenia, mood disorders, or who display antisocial personality problems are more likely to develop a gambling addiction.
  • Using medication to help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease has been proven to be more likely to develop impulsive addictions. This is partly due to how these drugs interact with the brain’s dopamine system, which we will explain in detail below.
  • One example in which gambling addiction may result from a particular condition is in patients struggling with bipolar disorder. Some patients with bipolar may find that they are more prone to impulsive spending, gambling, and uninhibited behaviours when they are going through their manic phases.

Symptoms and Signs of Gambling Addiction

If you’re unsure whether or not you or a loved one are a problem gambler, it can be useful to understand some of the most common signs and symptoms. Some of the most common signs of gambling addiction include:

  • Spending more money on gambling than one intends to, having large sums of unaccountable spending, taking out loans or borrowing money from friends or family to gamble
  • Feeling the need to increase the size of bets or secure more money to maintain the same level of enjoyment from gambling
  • Committing illegal acts, such as theft, to get money to gamble
  • Failing to reduce the amount of gambling, or becoming irritable or uncomfortable when prompted or attempting to seek gambling addiction help
  • Using gambling as an outlet to avoid dealing with emotional problems
  • Being preoccupied with gambling: spending a lot of time fantasizing about previous wins or demonizing past losses; planning when you will be able to gamble in the future, or organizing your finances to ensure that you have the funds to be able to gamble
  • Missing out on work, socializing, or family due to gambling
  • Being unable to stop gambling until one has run out of money or the gambling venue closes
  • Frequently thinking about gambling and missing activities so that one can gamble
  • Lying about the amount that one gambles or the time that they spend gambling

As you can see, a gambling problem can be quite serious and can lead to issues in an individual’s social and personal life. If you are experiencing the signs of gambling addiction, you should consider seeking treatment.

Complications of Problem Gambling

The gambling itself is generally not the only problem. Compulsive gambling can lead to several complications in the life and health of the person involved. Both the family and the addicted person will likely experience difficulties in their lives if the issue is not addressed.

These are some of the most common problems associated with gambling addiction.

  • Financial problems. A large number of habitual gamblers experience serious financial problems at some point during their addiction. These problems can range from huge debts to outright poverty or going bankrupt.
  • Legal issues. Not all gamblers experience legal issues, but some gamblers may be incensed to commit illegal acts, such as stealing, to finance their habit. This can lead to legal repercussions which can adversely affect the gambler and their family.
  • Physical health problems. Compulsive gambling can lead to high levels of stress, which can manifest in the body as a variety of physical health problems. Many gambling addicts struggle with stress-related illnesses like ulcers, headaches, digestive issues, or sleeping problems.
  • Family problems. Many gambling addiction stories are told not by the gamblers themselves, but by their family members. People who live in the same family as someone who is addicted to gambling are more likely to be subjected to violence or verbal abuse; children born to these habitual gamblers are more likely to develop mental health problems like depression or drug problems.

Unfortunately, the nature of these problems can compound as stress, depression, or anxiety, which can make it more difficult for someone to figure out how to stop gambling addiction.

Placing Bets Affects Your Brain and Your Mental Health

Most people know that drugs and alcohol affect the brain. But, did you know that placing wagers similarly affects the brain? Brain imaging and neurochemical testing prove that wagering activity stimulates a person’s brain reward system. Studies found that blood flow in areas of the brain changed when compulsive bettors were exposed to wagering-themed videos or simulated casino games. Researchers discovered that the brains of cocaine addicts responded in the same way when confronted with videos depicting cocaine use.

Gambling addiction is classified as compulsive behaviour which makes it a form of mental illness. Those who suffer from this insidious affliction continue to gamble despite being fully aware of the negative consequences. As is the case with substance abuse, gambling addiction can lead to a variety of other issues such as poverty, depression, and even suicide. Many problem gamblers also abuse drugs and/or alcohol.

The Biology of Gambling Addiction

All addictions have a biological aspect, and gambling is no different. Process addictions like these cause changes in the brain, which can be observed. Understanding how these processes affect the brain can be instrumental in gambling addiction treatment.

The main culprit, in this instance, is dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (a chemical in our brain) involved in feelings of pleasure, reward, and motivation. Naturally, dopamine is released when we accomplish something that is beneficial for our longevity and survival: after having sex, completing an exercise routine, eating a healthy meal, or other similar things.

In the world where we live, our longevity and survival are often governed by our financial status. We need money to clothe and feed ourselves, maintain our homes, and take care of our family. For this reason, the brain is wired to release a tremendous amount of dopamine when we are presented with the opportunity to obtain large sums of money – such as during a gambling session.

The dopamine release that occurs during a gambling session occurs in a part of the brain known as the reward pathway. Unfortunately, consistent activation of this pathway happens when compulsive gambling leads to a dopamine insensitivity, one of the most devious signs of gambling addiction.

the biology of gambling addictionIt means that people tend to require more and more stimulation to release the same amount of dopamine and receive the same amount of pleasure that they originally felt when first winning a bet. It occurs in much the same way that a drug addict requires higher and higher doses of their choice drug to experience the same enjoyment.

This is also one of the reasons why not everyone understands how to stop gambling addiction. It’s not a simple matter of ‘stopping gambling.’ As a person gambles more and more, their brain becomes reliant on the risk and reward of gambling to release its pleasure chemicals. It means that when a person is unable to gamble, they will be physically unable to produce the dopamine that they need to feel good.

It is the main reason that people go through a psychological period of ‘gambling withdrawal.’ Rebuilding and restoring the dopamine system can take weeks, months, or years, and during this period, it can be extremely tempting for someone to return to the casino. This is one of the most significant reasons to seek gambling addiction help.

How to Stop Gambling Addiction with Self-Help

If you’re wondering how to stop gambling addiction on your own, it’s certainly possible to do if you follow these steps:

  1. Make sure that you limit your access to gambling. It could involve moving to a state or town where there are no gambling facilities, or asking a friend or family member to keep yourself ‘on lockdown’ while you are working through the issue.
  2. Identify the psychological or emotional triggers that led you to develop gambling addiction in the first place. This requires a great deal of introspection and reflection – abilities that not everyone has refined. If you struggle with these processes, a therapist or counsellor can help you learn how to understand yourself better.
  3. Find healthy habits and behaviours that trigger the same feelings and responses that gambling did. At first, this may seem complicated, as your dopamine system will be wired to respond specifically to the act of gambling. However, over time, you will be able to rewire it to respond to other activities. Naturally, quitting by yourself will be more difficult than it would be to tackle the issue with the support and care of professionals during a gambling addiction treatment plan. Many gambling addiction stories end in relapse, so it’s important to know how to avoid this. One of the most common causes of relapse is boredom, so you will need to find something that you enjoy. Pick up a new hobby, like reading, building something, or playing a musical instrument. Surround yourself with encouraging, like-minded people and cut ties with other problem gamblers.

Canadian Healthcare System and Treatment of Gambling Addiction

Don’t feel too bad if you can’t quit on your own. You should feel good about yourself because you are trying. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments and programs available to those affected by gambling addiction.

Self-Help Groups

Gamblers Anonymous is one of the most successful gambling addiction programs. Many sufferers find it helpful to discuss their gambling addiction with people who have the same problem. The support they receive from an understanding group is of great comfort. Self-help groups also hammer home the fact that you are not alone in your struggles.


There are a few types of therapy that can help with gambling addiction. Behaviour therapy focuses on developing skills that reduce the symptoms of gambling addiction, while cognitive therapy primarly aims to replace unhealthy behaviour with healthy behaviour. Family therapy is also an effective way of dealing with it.


Compulsive behaviour such as continually playing slots may be mitigated by the use of antidepressants and other medical mood stabilizers. Some recovering addicts credit narcotic antagonists with turning their lives around. This avenue should only be taken under a qualified doctor’s supervision.

Gambling Addiction Hotlines

Many times, problem gamblers want to confront their illness in complete anonymity. This is when calling a gambling addiction hotline can be helpful. These can serve as the first step in recovery. They can also help those who are already in the recovery phase.

Programs That Help With Gambling Addiction

The first step to effectively dealing with a problem is first to recognize that a problem exists. Pay attention to the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction. Because addicts are often in a state of denial, it usually takes a family member or friend to start the ball rolling. That person might urge you to enter one of the many gambling addiction recovery programs. You should listen to anyone who confronts you about the amount of time and money you spend at the casino. If you realize that you need help with gambling addiction, take a step in the right direction by contacting one of the following agencies.



Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Gamblers Anonymous

Canada Safety Council

American Addictions Centers

There are also many licensed and accredited private facilities located throughout Canada and the rest of the world.

As mentioned at the beginning, the overwhelming majority of those who gamble are responsible for it. The team at encourages safe gambling and a healthy lifestyle.

Gambling Addiction Stories

Before attempting to overcome your gambling addiction, it can be helpful to hear some gambling addiction stories from others who have done the same.

Jim’s Descent into Compulsive Gambling

Like many other habitual gamblers, Jim’s first experience gambling led to the mysterious phenomenon known as “beginner’s luck.” After doubling his money on his first-ever bet, he became inclined to believe that the odds of gambling were in his favour.

Just a few weeks later, and Jim had drained most of his savings in the slots. He still managed to pay his bills and put food on the table for himself and his wife, but the rest of his money went into funding.

As with many gambling addiction stories, it wasn’t until after his wife threatened him with a divorce that he began to take his problem seriously. Thanks to a comprehensive gambling addiction treatment program, Jim was able to recognize his addiction for what it was. Now, he lives happily with his wife – and has managed to build back his savings account.

Thomas Recovers with the Help of His Friends and Family

Thomas had quite a different experience. Hoping to hide the signs of gambling addiction, Thomas began isolating himself from his friends and family. He would go out on the weekends, telling his family that he was going out to the bar with his friends. At the same time, Thomas would tell his friends that he was spending time with his family. In reality, he was at the casino.

He began to lose his friends, and his relationship with his family began to sour. It was only when he recognized the damage he was doing to his personal life and the hurt he was causing his friends and family that he recognized his problem's severity .

Thomas Recovers with the Help of His Friends and Family
By coming clean and opening up about his addiction, his friends and family offered him the support that he needed. Since building back his relationships, he has recognized that one can’t put a financial price on the importance of loving friendships and family relationships.


As you can see, gambling can be very addictive; the problem should be treated as such. If you or someone you care about is struggling with the problem, you should seek gambling addiction help or treatment as soon as possible.