Sarah Horgan hears how advertising and work-based pressure are leading people towards damaging addictions, such as betting and cocaine.
THE director of an organisation that treats addictions is calling for a halt to excessive gambling advertising as the Tabor Group caters for more clients with gambling issues than ever before.
Fresh concern has been raised ahead of the Cheltenham Festival, which will take place next week.
The iconic Cheltenham roar will be reduced to a whisper this year, as fans enjoy festivities at home in line with Covid restrictions. Horse racing fans will undoubtedly continue to place bets, albeit online. Tabor Group clinical director Mick Devine said that, while for most people betting in moderation is harmless, some people can be susceptible to advertising.
“If people are vulnerable or susceptible to gambling, advertising can be very influential,” he said.
“We need to regulate how exposed people are to this as it can be horrifically seductive.”
He said that technology has played a major role in enabling those with gambling addictions.
“With gambling, there are no obvious signs of the mood being altered,” he said.
“On the contrary, the person can look very focused. To another person, it might just appear that they are on their phone or working on their laptop.
“Before, this was associated with somebody in the pub drinking alcohol. However, that profile has changed. You have young men who have disposable incomes that want a good level of activity.
"We don’t have to take a trip to the bookies now. The method to gamble can be carried around in our pockets. A chance to make money is seen as part of the entertainment.”
Mr Devine explained that people are very often bombarded with enticements to gamble.
“Before, you could watch a football match without an opportunity to gamble. Now, it’s being offered as part of the entertainment. Many young men, in particular, enjoy it and there is no harm in that.
“However, if people are vulnerable, they enjoy the mood alteration that comes with all the excitement. This, in turn, might draw them into doing it for higher stakes, which leads to serious problems.”
He said that much of the time it’s the family who contact the organisation.
“By the time a family gets on to us, they are extremely stressed. The person may have even run into legal issues or workplace problems as a result of theft or fraud.”
Mr Devine listed the phases a gambler experiences before hitting rock bottom.
“There is the winning, the losing and the desperation phase,” he said.
“At first, the family is delighted because there is more money around. If someone stays at the gambling, they will end up entering the losing phase, where they are chasing their losses in the hope of getting back the money they lost.
“It can be hard to face the consequences. When the problems are too big, the person gets desperate and see the only way out as self-harm.”
He stressed that the signs of a gambling dependency are often difficult to identify when compared to a drug addiction.
“The person might spend half the day in bed because they have been online for hours the night before. With older people, gambling is the main problem.
“With young people, on the other hand, gambling is a secondary addiction. In these situations, the primary addiction is normally cocaine. The drug is what energises them to indulge in gambling. The adrenaline that comes with this often complements a drug like cocaine that leads to erratic behaviour.”
Mr Devine said some young business owners use cocaine to treat exhaustion in their professional lives, resulting in devastating consequences for them and their families.
He said there has been a significant increase in men seeking treatment at the facility who fit this description.
The Tabor Group was founded in Cork in 1989 when the Sisters of Mercy opened Tabor Lodge in the village of Belgooly. While the facility primarily dealt with alcohol issues, a surge in clients seeking help for cocaine addiction has been noted there in recent years.
Mr Devine said that what initially started out, for the majority of his clients, as recreational drug use became a means to cope with heavy workloads and tight deadlines. He described how families are making that initial call to the centre out of pure desperation.
“It can be difficult for people meeting with success in the early days of their business. When the business is growing and they are trying to cope with the demands of being a successful business owner, this seeps into family life. A lot of the time, they don’t feel like they have enough energy to get a job done and see cocaine as a solution.”
The group’s 2019 annual report highlights the prevalence of cocaine among those seeking help. Some 94% of clients used cocaine as their drug of choice. The former addiction counsellor added that most of the clients they deal with from the business community experienced success at a young age.
“They are trying to do too much and relying on cocaine as a crutch,” he said of those who are struggling. “However, they can’t see how the drug ties in with other problems.
"Before they develop a problem, they are using cocaine to cope with pressures.”
Before long, Mr Devine explained, many find themselves in the clutches of addiction.
“Cocaine is the only thing that keeps them going through the pressure and deadlines,” he said. “Before the person knows it, they are using cocaine in ways they never intended using it. They are also using it in quantities they never imagined. That’s when the problems kick in. Initially, these problems aren’t seen for what they are... They see cocaine as something that is keeping them going as opposed to the cause of their problems. The trick in the treatment is to help people to change their view of the situation. For someone to make progress and experience the kind of lifestyle they really want, it’s important to take drug use out of the equation and not see it as a central part of everyday life.”
He said that having a routine is particularly useful when combatting addiction.
“If the structure of one’s day falls apart, then drink and drugs can enter your life in a way they would not otherwise have.”
He stressed that there was always hope for people struggling to find their way back from addiction.
To find out more about the Tabor Group, visit www.taborgroup.ieor call 021 4887110.