<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1752814118079175&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Although there are many similarities between gambling addiction and substance addiction, there are a few significant differences. It is important to recognize these differences, especially regarding diagnosis and treatment.

What Is Gambling Addiction?

The term gambling addiction can be a bit misleading. Problem gambling is the terminology broadly accepted by psychiatrists, Gamblers Anonymous members, and is also the foundation for the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual's) criteria for problem gambling.

Problem gambling is a progressive disorder characterized by: 

  • A continuous or periodic loss of control over gambling
  • A preoccupation with gambling and with obtaining money with which to gamble
  • Irrational thinking
  • A continuation of the behavior despite adverse consequences

What Is Substance Addiction?

According to WebMD, substance abuse differs from substance addiction. Substance abuse is more behavior-based than addiction. Substance addiction is a disease, meaning you cannot stop using a substance despite any harm it causes. 

Furthermore, when an individual takes drugs that are illegal or misuses alcohol, prescription medicine, and other legal substances, it is considered substance abuse. Abusing these substances can lead to addiction and cause serious health problems and even death.

Signs of Substance Abuse:

As stated by Health Direct, these are a few of the signs that you or a loved one may have a substance abuse problem:

  • Regularly using more of a substance than intended or prescribed
  • Regularly trying to cut down or stop using, but never succeeding
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from a substance
  • Experiencing cravings, or a strong desire to use the substance
  • Often failing to meet responsibilities at work, home, or school because of substance use
  • Using substances again and again, even though aware of the potential physical damage or danger
  • Physical tolerance develops, meaning the substance does not have much effect over time, or more of the substance is needed to get the desired effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as feelings of physical illness when not using the substance and feeling relief only by taking more of it


How Gambling Addiction Differs From Substance Addiction

Addictive behaviors such as problem gambling and substance addiction overlap in many ways.  But there are distinct differences between problem gambling and substance abuse such as:

  1. Gambling is a more behaviorally-based and cognitively-based disorder than substance addiction. Cognitively speaking, most researchers characterize excessive gamblers as demonstrating cognitive distortions in their core belief systems about their ability to win at gambling.

  2. The treatment approach to these conditions differs significantly.  Cognitive-behavioral approaches to treating gambling problems are effective for those who see gambling as rational behavior. Teaching the real odds of winning games often changes the belief that gambling can be profitable.

    Treatment for gambling problems also focuses on assessing financial problems caused by gambling by reducing access to cash, controlling credit card use, debt resolution, and financial planning.

    On the other hand, substance addiction treatment relies more on residential services, including withdrawal management and treatment. Medical intervention such as detoxification is typically required for individuals who suffer from substance addiction.

  3. The diagnosis criteria for gambling addiction differs from substance addiction as well. Substance addiction is diagnosed based on substance usage continuing despite recurrent physical or psychological problems. In contrast, gambling addiction diagnosis focuses on the negative impact of continuous gambling on family and friends.


If you think you or someone you know is suffering from gambling addiction, we at Algamus Gambling Treatment Services are here to help. Visit us online to learn more about addiction. Call us at 888-527-3098 to schedule a consultation.

For more information about substance abuse, programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and SAMHSA can help.

Topics: Gambling Addiction, Treatment, Recovery, substance abuse

Rick Benson

Written by Rick Benson

Rick founded Algamus Recovery Centers in 1992. A Cornell University graduate, Rick is an Internationally Certified Gambling Counselor (ICGC-II) and a Canadian Problem Gambling Counselor (CPGC). Algamus and Rick were featured on the very first episode of Intervention on the A&E channel.