ad info
 Diet & Fitness

 Headline News brief
 news quiz
 daily almanac

 video archive
 multimedia showcase
 more services

Subscribe to one of our news e-mail lists.
Enter your address:
Get a free e-mail account

 message boards

CNN Websites
 En Español
 Em Português


Networks image
 more networks

 ad info


  health > story pageAIDSAlternative MedicineCancerDiet & FitnessHeartMenSeniorsWomen

Gambling addiction as real as alcoholism

Have you been affected by a gambling addiction?
A gambling addict talks with CNN's Dr. Steve Salvatore
Windows Media 28K 80K

June 18, 1999
Web posted at: 12:01 p.m. EDT (1601 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Steve Salvatore

(CNN) -- Millions of people like to gamble, whether it be casino-style games or lotteries. For some gambling is an addiction, a sickness just like alcoholism or cancer, that can destroy lives.

It is hard to cure a compulsive gambler, but there are doctors and counselors who work with people whose lives have been turned inside out by their quest to win the big one.

Arnie Wexler is a reformed compulsive gambler who now runs a hot line for addicted gamblers. He says gambling nearly destroyed his life.

"I was running around at that time of my life wishing and praying I had enough guts to kill myself. I thought that if I killed myself and left my wife with $5,000 of insurance money and two kids in the house, it was the only way out of this mess," Wexler says.

Experts say compulsive gambling is a real illness.

"The addiction to gambling is different in that it's purely a behavior. It's not an addiction to a chemical or substance, but it involves a similar process, in that it's a compulsive behavior that the person has no control over," says Maimonides Medical Center clinical psychiatrist David Yamins.

Because there is no chemical or substance, gambling is an invisible addiction. There are no telltale physical signs, no track marks, no smell of alcohol. Wexler says that is what makes the compulsive gambler so elusive.

"I'm gonna tell you that I'm recovered 31 years, and you don't know I just didn't come from buying 1,000 lottery tickets or calling my bookmaker before you walked in here, or I just didn't get back from Atlantic City an hour ago," says Wexler.

What drives the compulsion to gamble? Yamins says it is the thrill. "They're holding onto the myth, the idea that they're gonna hit it with one big turn of the wheel, or one big play of the slot, that they're gonna correct all the trouble with their life."

Many compulsive gamblers do occasionally have large paydays. Wexler had a few, but that only made his problem worse. "I chased that big win every day of my life, figuring that I can do this again," he says.

Even though compulsive gambling is a legitimate medical diagnosis, treatment is not covered by insurance. Society views gambling as a behavioral problem that people should be able to control. Experts say this policy is unlikely to change until society accepts compulsive gambling as a real disease.

Gambling report urges restraint
June 18, 1999
Pequot Indians roll dice to preserve ancestral lands
June 17, 1999
Gambling everywhere? It's a sure thing
June 15, 1999
Panel recommends ban on Internet gambling
May 18, 1999
Study finds more than 5 million pathological or problem gamblers
March 18, 1999
Gambling study: More women hitting the tables
February 8, 1999
TravelGuide - Construction to resume on casino near French Quarter
October 21, 1998
Study says gambling starts early, linked to risky behavior
August 3, 1998
They Call It Video Crack
May 25, 1998
Government support for Atlantic City casino raises eyebrows
August 26, 1997

American Gaming Association
U.S. Gambling Research Institute
National Gambling Impact Study Commission
Internet Guide to Wagering Betting and Gambling on the Web
Compulsive Gambling Site
Gambling Times
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

China SARS numbers pass 5,000
Report: Form of HIV in humans by 1940
Fewer infections for back-sleeping babies
Pneumonia vaccine may help heart, too
Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.