BATON ROUGE—Problem gambling is one of Louisiana's most serious health issues. It affects not only the addict; it affects that person's family, friends, co-workers and society as a whole. A 2008 Louisiana study on problem gambling revealed as many as 100,000 Louisianians are problem and pathological/compulsive gamblers. Problem gambling is an urge to continuously gamble despite harmful negative consequences or desire to stop.
To raise awareness about Louisiana's services for those experiencing problems with gambling, Gov. Bobby Jindal has declared the week of March 3, 2013 as Problem Gambling Awareness Week. The movement coincides with National Problem Gambling Awareness Week.
"It is important to remember that our efforts to improve health in Louisiana must include the availability of treatment and prevention for behavioral health problems such as addiction," said Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "Louisiana offers a wide variety of treatment programs aimed specifically at problem gamblers, and we will use this week to spread awareness of the problem and shine light on the resources available to address it."
A 2010 Louisiana youth survey found that more than 40 percent of 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grade students have engaged in some form of gambling in the previous year. Underage compulsive/problem gambling can have tragic consequences. It can lead to other addictions, criminal activity, derail the youth's education, create an enormous financial burden for families and cause grief and worry for friends and family.
"Pathological gambling is often called the 'hidden addiction' because gamblers don't exhibit the external physical symptoms of alcoholism or drug addiction, but they do suffer social, family and financial problems as a result of their gambling," said Department of Health and Hospitals-Office of Behavioral Health Assistant Secretary Anthony Speier, Ph D. "Our counselors can help people cope with these issues."
"Like other diseases, it's helpful to address the problem in the earlier stages," said Department of Health and Hospitals-Office of Behavioral Health Medical Director Rochelle Head-Dunham, M.D. "If you are feeling guilty about gambling or using gambling to help with a financial problem, I encourage you to contact the Problem Gambler's Helpline and contact a counselor for a free assessment."
The state offers a range of preventive services, counseling and treatment programs for problem and compulsive gambling at no cost to Louisiana residents. Louisiana was among the first states to have a publicly-funded residential treatment center for compulsive gamblers, called CORE (Center of Recovery), in Shreveport. Since it opened in 1999, CORE has treated more than 2,100 compulsive gamblers. The state's toll-free helpline handled more than 1,400 "intake calls" or direct requests for help last fiscal year. The state recently implemented the "Kids Don't Gamble...Wanna Bet?" program aimed at preventing youth gambling and has a website geared toward adolescents, http://www.thegamble.org/. For more information about problem gambling, please call the Louisiana Problem Gambler's Helpline at 1-877-770-STOP (7867) or visit http://www.helpforgambling.org/.
"Most adults who choose to gamble do so responsibly. For those who can no longer control their gambling, there is help available in Louisiana," notes Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling Executive Director Reece Middleton. "One call to our Problem Gambling Helpline can connect a distressed person with people and resources here in Louisiana to help them get off the bet. This is something for all Louisianians to be proud of - the state is leading the nation in recognizing and treating compulsive gambling."