The COVID-19 pandemic was driving new patterns of substance use and compulsive behaviours.

People who gamble regularly online are doing so just as often or more frequently during the pandemic. Alcohol sales are up more than 60 per cent and opioid overdoses have skyrocketed.

The pandemic threw life’s balance off for so many. Gambling addiction has grown out of stress, uncertainty, and disconnection from activities and people that once supported a sense of self.

Few of us are used to spending many hours-day after day-in our own homes. As most people were literally left to their own devices during COVID-19 related shutdowns, many began engaging with technology in new and different ways.

Cut off from our regular outdoor activities, classes and workspaces, many people began feeling bored, anxious and depressed. These feelings, plus the shift of most interactions to an online forum , created a perfect storm for susceptibility to clicking onto an online gambling site. On line gambling sites have increased their advertising on websites, email blasts, radio and social media to lure potential customers.

Because it is possible to gamble using credit cards instead of cash in hand, debts can be run up extremely quickly before people even wrap their heads around how much is at stake. For people who don’t normally gamble, they can get hooked very easily. Gambling advertisements create the mistaken belief that gambling is a quick way to make money. However, gambling can bury families in debt and, even more devastating , it can lead to suicide by those who feel at a total loss of how to recover from the damage created.

When people think of a gambling addiction, it is immediately assumed that most impacts are financial. While most do face financial difficulties, the negative effects of gambling go far beyond bank accounts

And include damage to relationships, impact on work, and even legal issues.

For anyone who finds themselves negatively impacted by gambling , support is available:

  • Reach out to a family member, friend or trained professional who can offer support and guidance.
  • Join a self help group like Gamblers Anonymous.
  • Decrease activities that lead to isolation. Instead connect with hobbies and interests  that provide a sense of fulfillment and meaning.
  • Spend time with loved ones who validate one’s sense of self worth.
  • Set up reminders of what gambling has cost oneself-not only financially but in the way of mental health, hobbies, sense of self and physical health.