HOUSTON, TX-- No doubt you've heard about this week's Powerball prize. It's a $1.5 billion temptation that is tough for anyone to resist. Now imagine being a gambling addict.
"This an illness that not a whole lotta people talk about or that you can easily recognize," explains Lori Fiester, director of treatment services at the Council on Recovery in Houston.
Gambling can be as addictive as crack, says Fiester, "We have seen more evidence that shows our brain lighting up when we do certain things around gambling. For those that have issues with gambling, it looks just like cocaine does."
Of course, buying a Powerball ticket (or even 10 of them) doesn't make you an addict. "The normal person won't necessarily do the things that the person that has a problem with (gambling would do)," says Fiester, "like lie about it or sneak, or it interfere with their relationships or interfere with their job." The unpredictable addict might do anything chasing that big win: use up their 401K, embezzle from work, steal from family, even borrow from the mob.
Another tragedy about gambling addiction: "This is also one of the highest suicidal addictions because there's a phase in it that gets very hopeless. 'When I've lost all my money, I've lost all my family, I have nowhere to go.' It's pretty scary."
If you are an addict tempted by the Powerball hype, Feister recommends you first stop and breathe, then seek out help from a therapist. "If we have a problem, we most likely can't do it by ourselves," she says, "If we could, we would."