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MN Works to Help Residents Fight Compulsive Gambling

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and Minnesota's Department of Human Services is urging loved ones to seek help for people facing addiction. (iStockphoto)
March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and Minnesota's Department of Human Services is urging loved ones to seek help for people facing addiction. (iStockphoto)
March 18, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Whether it's the casino, bingo or scratch-off lottery tickets, the state estimates that thousands of Minnesotans struggle with gambling addiction. March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and the state's Department of Human Services is urging gamblers' loved ones to seek help.

Brian Zirbes, deputy director of the department's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division, said compulsive gamblers have the highest rate of attempted suicides compared with any other addiction. He said problem gambling rarely exists alone.

"There's also a high level of what's called co-occurrence," he said. "So, a little more than 70 percent of individuals with problem gambling also have problems with alcohol consumption, and about 60 percent of people with problem gambling also are dependent on nicotine."

The department has set up a website, 'GetGamblingHelp.com. In addition, Zirbes said, anyone concerned about gambling addiction can use the state's free, confidential help line by texting the word "hope" to 61222.

The state has estimated that about 6 percent of Minnesota gamblers are at risk of addictive behavior. Nationally, more than 6 million people are considered problem gamblers. Zirbes said it's important for family members or close friends to recognize the warning signs: "when a person is gambling for longer than they intended, gambling until all their money's gone, being preoccupied with gambling to the point where those activities interfere with your daily functioning or where it has a negative impact on your health."

Zirbes said the state has dozens of free gambling-treatment services, including a Gamblers Anonymous program, which have worked to help thousands of people recover.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN