GUEST COLUMN: Gambling and gaming are fun and games, until they aren’t


BY KARRIE PHILLIPS, Guest columnist

Addiction is defined as a neuropsychological disorder characterized by a persistent and intense urge to engage in certain behaviors, despite substantial harm and other negative consequences. Repetitive substance use often alters brain function in ways that perpetuate craving and weakens self-regulation.

When you read that definition, what came to your mind? Perhaps you thought of substance use or alcohol addiction. Those disorders are two of the most well-known addiction disorders. 

However in 2020, 718 Virginia residents called the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling seeking services for help with problem gambling. The Virginia Council on Problem Gambling also reports that approximately 2 million U.S. adults meet the criteria for a severe gambling addiction and approximately another 4 to 6 million who would be considered to have mild gambling problems. This means that those people do not meet all the criteria for a clinical diagnosis but are experiencing problems due to their gambling behavior. 

Now you may be thinking to yourself:  How can you be addicted to something that is not a substance that can be physically ingested? 

Someone with a gaming addiction gets the same effect from gambling that someone with a substance-use disorder gets from using. 

When someone wins at any game they are playing, the “feel good” chemical in our brain called dopamine gets released. This release of dopamine gives us a high or euphoric feeling in some cases. 

As time goes on, and a person begins gambling more and more, it takes a bigger and bigger win to create that same dopamine release or the same level of pleasure as received the first time. 

At this point, much like with chronic substance use, it becomes a game of chasing the original high, over anything else. 

Gaming and gambling can be fun and amusing, but when it becomes more than just a game, it can become a dangerous pass time to partake in. 

Here are some tips for gaming responsibly and preventing addiction: 

— Set a time limit and stick to it

— Set a money limit and stick to it 

— Gamble for fun, and not as a way to make money 

— Accept beforehand that losing is a part of the game

— Do not let gambling interfere with your daily life such as family and friends. 

— Assume going in that when money is lost, it’s gone. Do not play to win back losses. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing problems with gaming and gambling The National Council on Problem Gambling offers help and hope. 

Their help is free, anonymous, and available 24/7 by calling the Problem Gambling Hot Line at 1-800-522-4700. 

Chat with counselors online at  For additional resources and information please visit the Eastern Shore Community Services Board’s webpage,

The writer is Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist at Eastern Shore Community Services Board Office of Prevention Services. 


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