In Oklahoma, experts look at gambling as a disease which is very often ignored or mostly remains undiagnosed. It is also being called one of the biggest health concerns for the residents of the state which is growing unchecked as the state rises to being the fifth largest in the country in terms of the number of casinos. It has been claimed by health and gambling experts that gambling brings changes to a person’s brain just like that seen in drug addiction. However, as no kind of substance abuse is involved during gambling, many problem gamblers fail to recognize it as an addiction.
Michelle Jester, a victim of gambling addiction who has been fighting the problem for over 20 years, said that for her it started with playing bingo and then eventually she started going to slot machines and neglecting her family in the process. She became so obsessed with gambling that she had to be evicted from her house and forced to move back with her family, but even that didn’t stop her from continuing to use slot machines.
According to Susie Harrington who is a therapist, these people enter a condition like a trance from which it is almost impossible to find a way out all by themselves. She works with A Chance to Change Foundation in helping people, who like Jester have been scarred by gambling addiction, through counselling and therapy. She says that the demand for counsellors like her has grown by almost 50% in the last few years. Such people, she says, suffer a lot of emotional trauma and cause pain to their families too as they have to lie to their near and dear ones, and they also have to cheat or steal money to be able to fund their addiction.