Up to Nine Million Americans Are Problem Gamblers

By McCarton Ackerman 03/06/12

Gambling Awareness Week draws attention to a huge national problem.

Millions of Americans are hooked.
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Numerous states are currently observing National Problem Gambling Awareness Week, a grassroots outreach campaign presented by the National Council on Problem Gambling to educate the public and about the issue. According to the NPGAW website, 2-3% of the US population—that's six to nine million Americans—will have a gambling problem in any given year. "With the convenience and prevalence of gambling, signs that a person may be struggling with what we refer to as a process addiction to gambling may go undetected," says Dr. Stephen Grinstead, a therapist who specializes in addiction. "It is important to identify the signs and symptoms of addiction and seek professional help if needed." According to the NCPG, even those who gamble recreationally (less than five times a year) are significantly more likely than those who don't to have mental health disorders, substance abuse problems, or both. And an estimated one in five pathological gamblers attempts suicide—a higher rate than for any other addictive disorder. The campaign also deals with the relatively new epidemic of youth gambling addiction, with 60-80 percent of high school students gambling in the last year and nearly five percent of youth ages 12-17 meeting at least one of the criteria of having a gambling problem. For online and community support, fact sheets and other resources, visit the NPGAW and NCPG websites.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.