Gambling, normally classified as a leisure activity, is not as innocuous as the term “leisure” suggests: when gambling shifts from the status of a hobby to the status of an addiction, this bears clear effects on the addicted individual’s existence and quality of life. Addiction is always a destructive habit, in so far as it means essentially an obsessive compulsion that takes on a central role in life: gambling as potentially addictive possesses this same destructive character.
Some of the clear effects noted in the medical literature related to psychological pathologies such as gambling include the accruement of debilitating debts. Hence, those addicted to gambling will often rack up “hundreds of thousand American dollars in debt.” The play of gambling introduces a destructive chaos into financial life.
The gambling addiction becomes central to one’s life, marginalizing other aspects of existence, such as family, employment and studies. According to a MIT study, gambling addiction has a pathological psychological effect, whereby the gambler’s aim is not so much to win money, but to “enter a state of total gambling immersion.” (Dizikes) The winning of finances merely intends to re-establish this immersion; the loss of finances leads to debt so as to regain the state of sublime gambling immersion.
Here, psychology of gambling addiction also interacts with a real physical addiction, much like the homeless junkie begging for his next fix of horse. According to the American College of Neuropsychology (ACNP), “pathological gambling can be successfully treated with medications that decrease urges and increase inhibitions.” Gambling thus alters the state of the brain.
Accordingly, gambling addiction entails three devastative effects in three different registers: the economic or social level, the psychological and the somatic. Gambling addiction thus joins other destructive forms of addiction. While it may seem hyperbolic to link the gambler to the junkie, the widespread and radically chaotic effects of gambling relegate both of the addicts to the skid’s row of existential crisis, the bowery of broken dreams.