When you come across an ad on a poker site that reads: “College Students: Win Your Tuition,” you can see that there is something very, very wrong with this picture.
College students are three times more likely to develop a “probable pathological gambling problem,” than any other member of a population, especially if they have 24/7 access to the Internet, and thousands of dollars of student loans in their bank accounts. Approximately 1-2 percent of the U.S. adult population has a pathological gaming problem, but for college students, that percentage lies somewhere between 4-11 percent.
In an article on EdgeFoundation.org, a site dedicated to coaching students with ADHD, a statistic is referenced which states that if a student is attending a class seminar, at least one person sitting at a 10 person table suffers from a gambling problem. In one national survey which involved 10,765 students from 199 U.S. colleges, it was found that 42 percent of the participating students claimed to have gambled in the past year, and 2.6 percent gambled on a weekly basis.
Research also found that college athletes are more likely to develop a gambling problem than non-college athletes. Out of the 636 college athletes participating in a national survey, approximately 15 percent had a pathological gambling problem. The most popular form of gambling activities for student-athletes are placing bets on sports games, purchasing lottery tickets, and playing card games or slot machines in casinos.
The psychology of gambling
The American Psychiatric Association defines problem gambling as a “disorder of impulse control,” similar to that of alcohol or drug addictions. A group of U.S. researchers discovered that medications which are usually used to treat those with addiction problems, can also be effective for problem gamblers.
However, it is important to point out the differences between someone who has a gambling problem, and someone who is diagnosed as a pathological gambler: Problem gamblers gamble away their money, but pathological gamblers will gamble away money or objects they don’t even own. Both groups of gamblers are more likely to suffer from sleep deprivation, which can become a serious health issue. They can also suffer from intense mood swings, or fall into a state of depression after they stop gambling, and because they struggle to control their impulses, they are more likely to develop drinking, drug, or weight problems.
Approximately 19 percent of all online gamblers are defined as a “probable pathological gambler.” Pathological gamblers suffer from a disorder known as DSM-IV, so when they gamble they experience a sort of “high feeling” because of the serotonin levels in their brain. In one research study conducted on pathological gamblers suffering from DSM-IV, it was found that subjects responded positively to pharmaceutical treatment.
Also, those who suffer from ADHD are especially at risk of becoming a pathological or problem gamblers because they struggle to control their impulses. In one research study it was found that 20-30 percent of problem gamblers “appear to have some form of attention deficit,” and another impulsive disorders, such as compulsive buying or compulsive sexual disorders, can be diagnosed in 35 percent of pathological gamblers.
Colleges and universities need stricter policies on gambling
Although there is research which proves that gambling is becoming more and more of an issue among college students, there is still a lack of gambling policies among campuses. In a U.S. study of 119 colleges, only 22 percent had some sort of gambling policy.
The Task Force on College Gambling Policies believes that more colleges should make treatment programs available for gambling addictions, just as they would for drinking or drug addictions. Because universities prohibit the use of alcohol or drugs on campus, the Task Force believes they should also include gambling in the campaign against addiction.
“In many cases, drug and alcohol addiction should be secondary to gambling addiction,” said Arnie Wexler, a recovering gambling addict who now runs a gambling hotline. “[Universities and colleges] don’t get it. It is easier to place a bet on a college campus than to buy a beer or a pack of cigarettes.”
In the article “Addressing College Gambling: Recommendations for Science-Based Policies and Programs,” the authors write:
“The academic mission of colleges and universities to promote learning cannot be achieved without a healthy student body…Today’s college students seem increasingly vulnerable to risky behaviors and addictive disorders. Many of these young people are living on their own for the first time, away from the social controls of their family, during a time of stressful developmental transition…Many of the same bio-behavioral characteristics that make young people vulnerable to alcohol and drug problems also make gambling a risky activity with potential financial and health consequences.”
90 percent of problem gamblers quit after going through treatment for at least one year. If you or someone you know is suffering from a gambling addiction, you can call the Gamblers Hotline at 1-800-522-4700 or Arnie & Sheila Wexler’s hotline at 1-888-LAST BET.
You can also visit the following sites: