This is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
The manager of the Iowa Gambling Treatment Program, Eric Pruess, says the goals are simple.
“To help promote the awareness of problem gambling…and to have the conversation among family members, professionals and others about problem gambling,” Preuss says.
Preuss told the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission last week that it’s important to continue pushing awareness of the issue. “We know that there are between eight and 12 million people in the United States who meet the criteria for a gambling disorder — and yet fewer than one percent actually receive the services that they might be in need of. So, that’s important as to why we continue to have not only a focus in the month of March but throughout the year, encouraging Iowans to have the conversation with each other,” according to Pruess.
He says those with a gambling addiction need to know lots of help is available.
“Many suffer in silence because they don’t know,” Pruess explains. “they don’t know that there is a hope for a better tommorrow. They don’t know that what they are experiencing is not something that is just happening to them. This is a serious of events and behaviours that they are experiencing that are common with maybe up to ten to 12 percent of other Iowans.”
He says his organization’s job is to continue to reach out to spread the message. “That free confidential help is available 24-7 anytime of the year. That recovery is possible, treatment works and that we are the messengers of hope to those Iowans struggling from problem gambling,”Pruess says.
Pruess says people need to understand the nature of problem gambling.
He says the research in the last decade indicates that gambling disorder is actually a brain disease. “Wehn you look at the CAT scans and C-T scans of individuals who are engaged in gambling activities — it lights up the brian much like a cocaine addict or meth addict– or someone who overimbibes in alcohol. Gambling modifies how the brain works and it is similar to how other drugs also affect the brain,” Pruess says.
He says around one percent or more than 20,000 people in Iowa are problem gamblers but a small perentage of them are taking advantage of the help that is available.”We have fewer than 800 people who actually seek assistance in Iowa in any given year — so there’s a huge gap in those who actually need services and those who seek services,” Pruess says.
Free help with problem gambling is available by calling 1-800-BETS OFF or online at www.1800BETSOFF.org.