13 Signs Your Teen Has a Gambling Problem

National Problem Gambling Awareness Week offers parents signs teens may be developing a gambling addiction

In any given year, 6 to 9 million Americans will have a gambling problem but the addictive behavior can begin as early as high school.

In fact, approximately 4 to 5% of children 12 to 17 meet one or more of the criteria of a problem gambler while another 10 to 14 percent are at risk of developing an addition experts say.

The National Council on Problem Gambling is using National Problem Gambling Awareness Week (March 4 – 10) to educate parents about signs of a developing gambling addiction.

Here are 13 signs your teenager may have the beginnings of a gambling problem per the NCPG:

  • Begins to sell personal belongings.
  • Borrows money from friends and family and does not repay it.
  • Steals and lies.
  • Has large amounts of cash that cannot be explained.
  • Has a great deal of debt that cannot be explained.
  • Strangers call on the phone with increasing frequency.
  • Withdraws from his or her regular social groups and activities.
  • Makes "900" number calls to gambling numbers.
  • Appears distracted and anxious; can be moody or depressed.
  • Unexplained absences from school or work.
  • Breaks curfew regularly.
  • Spends hours on online gaming sites.
  • Obsession with sports scores can indicate a sports gambling habit.

College students are at a risk of addiction two to three times higher than adults.

Most college students, in fact an estimated 75 percent, have gambled in the past year weather legally or illegally according to NCPG.

While most of those students bet on sp0orts, they also buy lottery tickets or join in card games.

"Sometimes the gambler does not see the damage they are causing to themselves and the pain they are causing in others," said Sunnyo Pak, Director of Addiction Treatment and Recovery at the Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC), a non-profit agency that serves the Asian and Pacific Islander and other ethnic communities in San Diego.

"Having a problem gambler in your family can take a toll not just on your finances, but can affect loved ones emotionally, physically, and psychologically."

The California Office of Problem Gambling (OPG) is offering free treatment for problem gamblers and their loved ones age 18 and older.

To find a provider near you or who speaks your language, call 1-800-GAMBLER or check the OPG website.

OPG in collaboration with UCLA Gambling Studies Program this past year has trained licensed clinicians across the state that are now providing free treatment to California residents.

Anyone age 18 and older who is negatively affected by gambling can receive free phone counseling, free face-to-face counseling, free intensive outpatient treatment, or free residential treatment.

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