On the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a federal law that banned sports betting, it’s likely that lawmakers in Colorado (where it’s still illegal) will consider legalization in 2019. And that has local therapists worried about gambling-addicted patients.
About two percent of Americans struggle with gambling, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling; it’s the only nonsubstance addiction recognized as a mental health disorder in the DSM-5, the standard manual used by health professionals. Those with the condition experience a larger-than-normal rush of happy-making chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine, when a bet pays off. But tolerance builds, says local gambling therapist Nancy Lantz, so addicts raise the stakes to get that same “high.” What’s more, getting treatment is a challenge: Colorado only has 11 certified gambling addiction treatment providers. Bottom line: A lot depends on how the authors of the new policy write it, and without a plan to help problem gamblers, Lantz believes Colorado should hedge its bets. “We just are not ready for this,” she says.