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Addiction can be silent: Problem Gambling & Gaming

by The Council on Chemical Abuse

Feb 26, 2020

Photo: 2019 1st place winner for the poster contest on “Gaming: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.”

Gambling is often referred to as the “hidden” or “silent” addictionThe National Council on Problem Gambling defines Problem Gambling as “all gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits. The essential features are increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, “chasing” losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences.”

Gambling disorder is another term for problem gambling, which was previously known as compulsive gambling or pathological gambling. This issue was first recognized as an ‘Impulse Control Disorder’ by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980 as a result of the pioneering work of Robert Custer M.D.

What is a Gaming Disorder?

The World Health Organization defines Gaming Disorder as “a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

Teens and Technology

Online gaming, use of social media and gambling have the same effect on the brain as drugs and alcohol. Teens, as digital natives, are the most voracious consumers of technology and because their brains are still young and malleable, teens are more vulnerable to the negative impacts than adults. In order to support and assist youth in responsible use of technology, it is imperative that parents and professionals understand the brain mechanisms that make gaming and social media so seductive to youth.

In September 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined Gaming Disorder in their 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Just like alcohol and other chemicals, behavioral addictions, like gaming and gambling, release dopamine in the brain and can do damage to people’s lives. Adolescents are significantly more susceptible to dopamine flooding because their brains are still growing and developing. Gaming and social media provide immediate rewards that require very little effort to attain. Social media delivers rewards in the form of “likes” or “shares,” while online and app games provide “loot boxes” and “level ups” that stimulate the brain to believe something magical has occurred.

The gaming industry employs countless psychologists, statisticians, behaviorists, and expert marketers to create the most engaging content possible. In an effort to maximize profits, most in the industry have ignored ethical responsibilities to their consumers.

COCA Prevention Specialists offer a Teens & Tech presentation that delves into some “tricks of the trade” used by big gaming, the internet, and social media to keep us coming back for more. Participants will receive a crash course in some of the manipulative techniques employed by “Big Gaming” and “Big Data” to collect your information, your time, and your money. Learn more about our Teens & Technology presentations.

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