Did you know that we’re currently in the middle of National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week® (NDAFW)? NDAFW is an awareness event put on by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services each year to fight the falsehoods that teens get from pop culture and their peers about drugs and alcohol. This year’s theme is “Shatter the Myths®” – a mission we can also apply to the myths surrounding problem gambling while raising awareness about the comorbidity of substance abuse and gambling addiction.
This NDAFW is unique – no one could have predicted the COVID-19 public health crisis. While the novel coronavirus has the world’s attention right now, NDAFW is still incredibly important and relevant. Due to stay-at-home orders, increased stress, and lack of access to treatment and self-help meetings, the risk of relapse is high for substance abuse patients in recovery, and is even more so for those who also suffer from gambling addiction, often a comorbid issue. For those who have yet to admit having a problem, lack of traditional access to substances and gambling opportunities significantly raises the risk of withdrawal, which can result in deep depression, severe anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.
Don’t Wait to Give Them the Facts: Here’s What Parents and Teachers Can Do Now
Teens and youth may turn to experimentation with drugs, alcohol, and gambling as escapes from boredom and increased stress during this crisis. That’s why it’s important for them to realize the compounded risks those who suffer from these addictions face during this time.
One of the first steps is shattering the myths! Youngsters may not yet be able to grasp why “everyone is doing it” is not the foundation for a good decision, or that the consequences of certain actions extend far beyond the present. But that begs the question: is everyone really doing it?
- The Majority of High School Students DON’T Use Marijuana1
- The Majority of Youth DON’T Use Illicit Drugs1
- 72% of High School Students DON’T Vape Nicotine2
- More Than 97% of High School Students DON’T Misuse Opioids3
- More Than 70% of High School Students DON’T Use Alcohol4
- More Than 85% of High School Students DON’T Binge Drink Alcohol4
Nonetheless, these figures reveal that too many are in fact abusing substances at a young age. What about gambling? How many have tried that, and how does it relate to alcohol and drug use?
- 6% of Florida Middle and High School Students Acknowledged Gambling Once a Month or More5
- 3% of Florida Middle and High School Students Reported Gambling Once a Week or More5
- Florida Middle and High School Students Considered High Risk Gamblers Were Much More Likely to:5
- Have Best Friends Who Use Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs
- Have Favorable Attitudes Toward Taking a Handgun to School
- Steal and Fight
- Cut School – Among High-Risk Gamblers, Four Times More Likely to Skip Class for Six or More Days within the Last Four Weeks
- Have More Risk Factors and Less Protective Factors
- Be Sensation Seekers
- Those Suffering from Problem Gambling at Age 30 Were Found to be Three Times More Likely to Engage in a Greater Variety of Gambling Activities as Youth6
What about video games? For those who choose video games as a form of entertainment, the current crisis is providing plenty of opportunities to pick up the controller. Is video game play related to participation in gambling for youth and young adults and the development of problem gambling? The research is emerging:
- Among Those Aged 16-24, Significantly More Gamblers (94.1%) Than Non-Gamblers (85.7%) Played Video Games. Significantly More Video Game Players (54.6%) Than Non-Players (31.1%) Gambled.7
- A Greater Proportion of Gamblers Reported Playing Video Games (94.1%) Compared with Video Game Players who Reported Gambling (54.6%).7
- Addicted Gamers Were Found to Have the Highest Rates of Gambling Participation, and Both Addicted Gamers and Social Gamers Reported Greater Past-Year Gambling Than Did Non-Gamers. 7
Addiction is not something to take lightly, and underage substance use and gambling raise the likelihood of developing a problem in adulthood, leading to complications teens and young adults can’t begin to foresee. That’s why it’s so important to give them the facts now, not just about their peers, but about the risks inherent in use of alcohol, drugs, and in gambling, so they can make informed choices about responsible use in adulthood.
With everyone homebound for the time being, now is a great opportunity to have this talk with the teens in your family, and for teachers to integrate it into an eLearning session. With gambling in particular, new ways to bet are popping up each day, with many accessible over the Internet from the home computer or a smartphone. Many popular video games now feature gambling mechanisms as well, such as the ability to purchase “loot boxes” with randomized content. Find new answers to teens’ stress and boredom by keeping them busy with alternative learning and entertainment options, and stay on top of their digital and gaming activity. Be wary of requests for money from your children related to video games, websites, and mobile apps, as the transaction may be for a form of gambling!
If you are concerned about a loved one’s gambling behavior or your own, call Florida’s 24/7, Confidential, and Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine at 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848). The HelpLine remains open and is still taking calls throughout the day and night to provide those who may be suffering from gambling addiction and their loved ones with resources they can access right from home during the COVID-19 crisis! The HelpLine can also be reached via text message at 321-978-0555, by starting a LiveChat at gamblinghelp.org, and by messaging the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling on Facebook or Twitter.
1 National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Monitoring the Future 2019 Survey Results: Overall Findings.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 18 Dec. 2019, www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/monitoring-future-2019-survey-results-overall-findings.
2 “National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Dec. 2019, www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/surveys/nyts/index.htm.
3 Schulenberg, John E., et al. “Monitoring the Future NATIONAL SURVEY RESULTS ON DRUG USE 1975-2019: Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use.” Monitoring the Future, The National Institute on Drug Abuse at The National Institutes of Health, January 2020, http://www.monitoringthefuture.org//pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2019.pdf.
4 Schulenberg, John E., et al. “Monitoring the Future NATIONAL SURVEY RESULTS ON DRUG USE 1975-2018: College Students & Adults Ages 19-60.” Monitoring the Future, The National Institute on Drug Abuse at The National Institutes of Health, July 2019, www.monitoringthefuture.org//pubs/monographs/mtf-vol2_2018.pdf.
5 Rothenbach Research and Consulting, LLC, and Florida Department of Children & Families Substance Abuse Program. “2006 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey.” Florida Department of Children and Families, Executive Office of the Governor, Sept. 2006, www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/samh/prevention/fysas/2006/2006fysasreport.pdf.
6 Carbonneau, Rene, et al. “Variety of Gambling Activities from Adolescence to Age 30 and Association with Gambling Problems: a 15-Year Longitudinal Study of a General Population Sample.” PubMed.gov, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26234317.
7 Mcbride, Jessica, and Jeffrey Derevensky. “Gambling and Video Game Playing Among Youth.” Journal of Gambling Issues, no. 34, 2017, doi:10.4309/jgi.2016.34.9.