March 7-13, 2010 is National Problem Gambling Awareness week. The purpose of this campaign is to educate the general public about issues dealing with problem gambling.
In the next few days and weeks we are going to be titillated with numerous stories of the devastation being suffered by NBA player Allen Iverson and his family because of his gambling and drinking. His family will be experiencing the anguish suffered by thousands of addicts around the country. Their suffering will be done in public. I hope that he and his family will be able to use this experience to help cast a beacon on the issues associated with alcoholism and compulsive gambling. They will now have an opportunity to take this gift they have been given and use it to help suffering families across the country.
Addiction does not discriminate. It treats all races and genders equally. It will destroy individuals and their families. As addictions go, compulsive gambling is relatively new, at least at the level we see it today. (Compulsive gambling will be listed as an addiction rather than an impulse control disorder in the DSM V to be released in 2011.)
As state governments attempt to balance budgets and pay for new programs, without any increase in taxes, they look to revenues from gambling to fix their financial problems. New gambling venues are appearing everywhere. The statistics clearly show that as more gambling venues are made available there will be a corresponding increase in the number of problem gamblers.
For most people who suffer from a gambling addiction, the problem is easy to hide. There are no visible signs that a person has a problem. Unlike a substance abuser there is no smell of intoxicants, no staggering, no slurred speech. For this reason, gambling is often referred to as the hidden addiction. Families and friends of the gambler are often unaware that a problem exists until there is home foreclosure, a bankruptcy, criminal charges pending, or a divorce is filed. The devastation has happened. This, of course, held true for Mr. Iverson. The revelation of his addiction issues comes with the news that his personal and family life are in a state of shambles.
There are a few excellent programs around the country where Mr. Iverson and his family can get help. For Mr. Iverson, the question is no longer about whether or not he has a gambling and a drinking problem. Rather the question is, "what is he going to do about it." Hopefully he will accept this crisis as a gift and use his celebrity status to help others who have lost everything to this insidious addiction. Mr. Iverson should be allowed to enter into an inpatient program where he can have the opportunity to break the hold that his addictions have on him and learn how to live a life free of these addictions. He and his family should be having the opportunity to receive help from people qualified to deal with these issues.
The general public and those of us who have suffered from the ravages of addiction all send our thoughts and best wishes to the Iverson family during this time of tragedy.
Michael Burke lives in Howell, Michigan where he practiced law for 25 years. Michaels' book "Never Enough: One Lawyer's True Story of How He Gambled His Career Away" has been published by the American Bar Association. Proceeds from the book go to his victims. He travels the country speaking to groups on the topic of trading addictions and compulsive gambling. Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is: www.neverenoughthebook.com.