Worried About a Friend

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Do you think that one (or more) of your friends is struggling with gambling addiction? If so, you’ve probably noticed some changes in their behavior.

Some signs of a gambling problem include:

  • Being preoccupied with gambling or talking a lot about gambling
  • Describing gambling as an easy way to make money
  • Lying, stealing and/or cheating in order to gamble
  • Borrowing money from friends and family and not paying it back
  • Selling their things or other people’s things
  • Having unexplained debts
  • Missing school, work or home without explaining why
  • Acting distracted, sad, preoccupied, nervous, defensive or moody
  • Losing interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Not wanting to see friends anymore
  • Performing worse in school

Note: these signs can also indicate other problems, like depression – only a professional can diagnose a gambling problem.

Talking to your friend
If you feel comfortable, it can be a good idea to talk to your friend about your concerns. Here are some tips to make the conversation successful:

  • Learn about the signs of a gambling problem (above).
  • Find somewhere quiet and free from distractions to have your talk
  • Avoid accusing or judging your friend; focus instead on how you feel about their gambling (“I’m worried about how much you’ve been gambling lately”)
  • Use specific examples of behavior (“last week, you spent your whole allowance playing poker”)
  • Be specific about how your friend’s gambling is affecting your friendship (“it seems like we never hang out anymore … you’re always gambling”)
  • Ask your friend how you can be there for them (“what can I do to help you?”).
    • You can offer to call a counseling service with them, or accompany them to their first appointment
  • If they seem open, tell them about the free 1-800-GAMBLER (426-2537) helpline number to receive free, confidential counseling services for gambling.
  • If your friend doesn’t want help, try not to push the issue. Let them know you are there for them if they want to talk about it in the future

What if your friend doesn’t want help?
The first step of recovery is admitting there is a problem. Your friend can only get better if they realize they have a problem and want to get help. You cannot force someone to get help if they don’t want to – it’s a decision they have to come to on their own. The best thing you can do is give them the information and – when they are ready to seek help – support.

If your friend is ready to get better
If your friend accepts that they have a problem and wants to seek help, your support will be very valuable. One example of supporting them is to acknowledging the positive steps they’ve taken during their recovery.

You must also be patient. Gambling addiction is a disease, and recovering from it is difficult. It may take several times before your friend is able to stop.1

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