Gambling is a problem in America. But gambling addiction issues with veterans are twice as high.
The Veterans Administration funded a study to determine the prevalence of problems and pathological gambling addictions within the U.S. military. The findings deserve our attention:
- One in 10 veterans have a problem or pathological gambling addiction (2 percent pathological addictions and 8 percent problem addictions to gambling)
- Unemployment plays a major role in whether the veteran had gambling addictions, and married veterans were more likely to have gambling addictions (not what psychologists and researchers expected to see)
- Veterans have about twice the rate of problems/pathological gambling addictions compared to the general, non-military population
- Both male and female veterans have almost identical problem and pathological gambling addiction rates (again, this is unusual – not what psychologists and researchers expected to see)
- Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety tend to have more gambling addiction problems
- Younger veterans (20s) were more likely to be diagnosed as pathological gamblers (from previous data, most veterans with pathological gambling addictions are 35 and older, so this change in age for addiction was unexpected)
Veterans are immediately submitted to unhealthy methods of emotional escape when they return from combat. There is a strong temptation to find unhealthy coping mechanisms because you are trying to develop a new normal at home or deal with combat stress reactions. Many WWII veterans turned to alcohol, isolated themselves from family, and became workaholics when they returned from combat. While this was a way to cope with problems, it was not the best way.
Gambling easily lends itself to a destructive path. In short order, people quickly become compulsive gamblers, grow financially unstable, throw away friends and family, end marriages, abandon children, risk loosing a security clearance, jeopardize his/her military career, and even contemplate suicide.
Know the signs that point to a gambling addiction. If you have a battle buddy or know a veteran who needs help, don’t wait. Tell him/her what you see. Encourage that person to get help. State agencies and military posts offer free gambling addiction resources. It is important that we act quickly when someone is at risk. The loss of family and financial security may be enough for someone to consider suicide. Your actions can help to save a life.
The National Council on Problem Gambling has a 24/7 confidential hotline: 1-800-522-4700.
Gamblers Anonymous offers a link with state hotlines at http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/hotlines
Military One Source offers free and confidential counseling for service members and military family members: 1-800-342-9647.
Focus on the Family offers faith-based counseling: 1-855-771-HELP (4357).