Many people do not show up on Blair Brown’s doorstep by chance.
Her Bettendorf, Iowa office is often the last stop for those whose lives have been hindered by the lies, secrecy and misery that can show up when the “luck” goes out.
“Most of the time when we get a person who is available in by themselves, they’re normally at that crisis stage,” Brown stated. “They’ve either lost everything, or are on the verge of losing everything, because of their gambling habits.”
A problem-gambling counselor with the Alcohol and Drug Dependency Services (ADDS), Brown has actually seen marital relationships, professions and savings account ruined by gambling addictions.
It’s been 25 years since the riverboat gambling establishments came to town, and while some see the pledge of an everlasting party, Brown only sees the impacts of the hangover.
“(With) the beginning of the huge commercial gambling, naturally there was a spike in the problem,” she stated, citing a flood of calls to the regional problem-gambling hotline in the very first 10 years after the riverboats dropped anchor here.
That spike has actually “lessened with time,” Brown said. “Now, it’s one of those situations where we’re more concerned about individuals who are currently struggling with an addiction.”
Majority struggle alone
An estimated 2 million people, or about 1 percent of the United States population, are pathological gamblers, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. An extra 4 to 6 million people, or about 2 to 3 percent of the population, fit the requirements for problem gamblers those whose gambling practices cause issues in their daily lives.
The American Psychiatric Association estimates less than 10 percent of problem gamblers seek treatment.
“It’s not like most addictions, where there are physical indications. It’s a really simple thing to hide,” Brown said. “Unless you have access to an individual’s finances, it would be hard to know that they’re actually struggling.”
Brown said guys ages 18 to 24, individuals who adulated around gambling and those who already have problem with a mental-health concern or other type of addiction are all at a higher danger of developing a gambling condition.
Trameka Woods, another ADDS therapist, said desperation and mounting issues in their professions or home lives are what draw most addicts to look for treatment.
“Normally, when they can be found in is when the secrets and lies kind of gone out and they start to become noticeable,” Woods stated. “They’re refraining from doing so well covering their tracks because now, all the credit cards are maxed or their credit is so bad that they can’t get another one in their name.
However, gambling addiction is “a treatable disease” with the ideal assistance, Brown stated.
“The very first thing is to change their thinking when it pertains to money and their idea of money and gambling,” she stated. “A lot of times, they really have bought into the myths of gambling and money. They actually think that ‘if I play this specific number’ or there’s a specific method like, they’ve actually, actually purchased into that.”
Counselors aim to resolve other problems in a gambler’s life, such as “co-occurring” dependencies, mental disorder and self-esteem problems. Clients likewise get a refresher course in regression prevention, monetary counseling and safety plans for suicide danger.
They desire to learn how to manage their gambling. We kind of fulfill them where they are,” Brown stated.
Addicts who identify money as a trigger, for example, may get monetary therapy or opt to put a member of the family in control of their savings account.
“It’s not like alcohol and drugs we can’t test you to understand whether you’ve used. The household can kind of be our eyes and ears,” Brown said. “They’ll observe things that we’ll never ever see in a 30-minute or hour session.”
No assistance for Illinois locals.
Iowa committed a part of its gaming-tax income to gambling-addiction treatment up until 2009, and continues to support centers like Blair’s with General Fund appropriations. Illinois does not.
“We’ve gotten several people who have reached out to us in need of treatment from the Illinois side. But, sadly, since we’re only funded by Iowa, we’re not able to alleviate anyone from that side of the river,” Brown said.
“It’s certainly an un-served population at this moment,” she added of Illinois residents. “I even consider the people that we’ve needed to turn away in extreme have to not be able to treat them? They’re coming to us. This is type of their last option, their last hope. I think especially when you look at the Quad-Cities dynamic this is all type of one big neighborhood and, it’s like, it’s simply a matter of a bridge separating us, and we’re unable to provide these services that they need.”
Brown said customers are encouraged to go to Gamblers Anonymous conferences, which are hung on both sides of the river.
Still, she stresses over Illinois residents who might quit searching for help if it proves tough to discover.
Threat of relapse varies. Some will be treated and never once again set foot in a gambling establishment. Others might regression numerous times, triggered by problems, such as a loss, monetary concerns or merely the belief that dependency not has a hold on them.
“Sometimes they believe, ‘I can control it this one time,’ and they go and then they’re back in that same cycle once again,” Brown stated.
Customers are taught not to be discouraged if relapse occurs, however to be prepared for it, and to accept it if or when it does, Woods stated.
Recovering addicts deal with internal and external triggers. Brown said some people find it challenging to prevent gambling due to the occurrence of commercial gaming not simply at casinos, however at bars, dining establishments and convenience stores.
Some individuals opt to willingly self-ban themselves for life from Iowa gambling establishments. Those who agree to a life time restriction are restricted from going into any Iowa Gaming Association member gambling establishments, and if they do, they have to surrender any jackpots.
Brown said she does not always encourage the restriction for those who haven’t gotten the treatment they need, saying it can set a client as much as deal with “a whole other list of issues” including legal ones if they regression or attempt to get around the restriction.
A need for awareness
Brown, whose previous work included dealing with mental-health conditions and domestic violence, stated her understanding of gambling dependencies has changed since starting her current job a year ago.
“Actually working with individuals, hearing their stories, it’s like, this is no various than a person who has actually been addicted to heroin all their life may not be the physical, however the effect that it’s actually had on their life.”
She said location casinos permit ADDS staff members to come and establish info booths there at times throughout the year, such as National Problem Gambling Awareness Month in March.
Both she and Woods said they had not personally felt the attraction of gambling.
It’s just something that I’ve never taken pleasure in. It’s simply never truly been appealing to me, Brown stated.