No discernible damage

Gambling is different because it does not have the physical effects or limits of substances. This means the harm is not easily identified by the gambler or those around them. It also means there is no limit to the harm that can be done, if people have money, time, and access to gambling. 

It is clear to see that gambling has caused changes to many individuals’ thought process. This is so they become hooked on gambling. This also means that people can become psychologically dependent on gambling to escape. Gambling changes how you feel. In this way gambling feels the same as substances, like alcohol, smoking or drugs. Many have also highlighted that gambling is different from the use of substances. 

Unidentified signs 

If people are using alcohol or drugs, it produces physical changes The individual and those closest to them can identify those changes in the short and long term. Gambling does not produce signs of intoxication or harm that people can identify. 

It produces changes in the person and their behaviour. This may be unobserved and have attributed to several issues; spending time on their phone, being distracted, withdrawn, behaving badly in relationships, unreliable, dropping out of social activities, being short of money, moody, not acting like themselves. 

This means that people may not notice when they are gambling too much or starting to develop an addiction.

Talk about it to somebody, anybody. Just talk about it and acknowledge it because it’s easy to hide it. It’s really easy to hide it because if you gamble during the night, no one’s going to know. I think it gets to the point where it’s gone too far before you realize that it’s gone too far because it doesn’t affect your body as such. It doesn’t show to other people.

“To describe the addiction, it’s all consuming. It gets its tentacles into– it’s quite a silent addiction, gambling. Alcohol or drugs, you can probably see. It’s more visual, you can see that you’re drinking more spirits or beers or whatever or you’re drinking more frequently. With drugs, it’s what you’re using and how often you’re using it.
With gambling, it can be that build up and it’s driven– it’s more a game of chance because if you win, you’re maybe not going to experience the real ill effects of the addiction, whereas if you lose and continue to lose, that’s when you’re on the slippery slope and you really are going to have the worst impact of it be it through your mental health, relationships, your job, your health. It’s something to watch out for.
That’s something you have to be really wary of because probably I don’t like to keep comparing it to other addictions, but drinks probably the same, it’s that socially acceptable level where you’re having the odd blow out with your pals or you’re just having a drink here and there, but when it really tips over the edge, it can be too late and you need to at least be ready to try and find that opportunity to accept that you’ve got an addiction and seek help for it.”


I think because if it’s alcohol and drugs, it’s all physical dependence, and they can see the harm it’s doing but with gambling, you can’t see it. If they can’t see a problem, they don’t think it’s there. You can stop yourself. You’re not hurting people. You can stop yourself anytime you want to do, but it’s not as simple as that. It’s not as simple as that.

This means that people can conceal their gambling from others (Those close to them and services). This secrecy adds to the depth of shame, addiction, and the harm that’s experienced. Gambling is even more concealable now. It takes place online. This means people always have access to it. Rather than being in a gambling venue. 

And what I always say, especially having worked in drug and alcohol recovery as well, if I had gone upstairs, you know, smoked a crack pipe or injected heroin or drank a bottle of wine or something like that, I would have gone back downstairs you would have seen it, you would have smelt it. My behaviour would have been different, you would have noticed it. Gambling, nothing at all. I went down with a smile on my face and that’s the thing with gamblers, because gamblers become incredibly adept at lying and putting on a front.

I don’t know about stigma in terms of people’s attitude towards me, because the problem, the biggest problem with gambling is the invisibility of it. I mentioned Christmas Day was a great example of that, that nobody would have known so. People that have alcohol dependency, people that have substance misuse issues, things like that, they are stigmatized in a way because often and this is a generalization, I realize it’s not exclusive. It’s a generalization. You can see it, they become, you know, they physically change, or their behaviours and characteristics change. With gambling that doesn’t happen. If anything, certainly from my perspective, I’ve always been sort of the happy go lucky, jack the lad, life and soul, and always cracking jokes, full of banter and all that. Just generally arsing around and just being a bit of a laugh. You kind of…that’s the facade. You put this this face on, so nobody would know. The amount of people that had no idea what I was doing.


No bodily limits

People said there is a physical limit to the amount of a substance you could take at a time. The harm from alcohol or smoking is gradual and cumulative. Many have expressed that the limits to someone with a gambling addiction is how much money they could get. This may also include time, and opportunities to gamble. With the availability and intensity of gambling today, the harm can escalate rapidly. This is because many could lose money available to them in a short space of time. This harm is irreversible.

I know I’ve used drugs and alcohol many times during this conversation, but there’s only so much, there’s only so much drugs you can put into your system before your body goes that’s enough, and it shuts down. There’s only so much alcohol you can drink. Gambling you can lose absolutely everything in the space of a night, in the space of an hour if you want to. You can just literally do everything and that needs to be tackled.

And people would find that so hard to understand. And for me, there is no stop button for gambling addicts. There is no stop. And whether that is winning a thousand pounds on a Monday and another 3000 on a Tuesday, that person will keep going back, and back, and back or I will keep going back, and back, and back until I’ve got zero. There is no stop.

Get Support

If you feel like you need support or someone to talk to about your own or someone else’s gambling, there are several organisations who can offer help, support and answer any questions you may have.

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