The Star-Herald

Campaign to educate parents about youth problem gambling

BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Council on Problem Gambling (MCPG) has launched a campaign in collaboration with the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention to educate parents about the risks of problem gambling among youth.

This campaign is part of MCPG’s overall mission to raise awareness of problem gambling and gambling addiction in Maine. According to the 2017 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, nearly 40 percent of Maine high schoolers and 28 percent of middle schoolers have gambled.

“With this campaign, we want to pay special attention to the risk factors for youth since how they access gambling can be different than what we’re used to seeing,” said Scott Gagnon, certified prevention specialist and board president at the Maine Council on Problem Gambling, “It’s especially important for parents to know a child doesn’t need to go to a friend’s house to play cards to gamble, they can gamble in their bedroom on their electronic device.”

Studies have shown that rates for problem gambling are considerably higher among teens than adults. Approximately 4-8 percent of youth ages 12-17 struggle with a gambling problem, and another 10-15 percent are at risk for developing a problem, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG).

The Maine Council on Problem Gambling advocates for prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery services, which include educating residents of Maine about signs and symptoms of problem gambling, developing resources to help problem gamblers and their loved ones, training treatment professionals to provide support using evidence based practice, and supporting recovery of individuals.

There is a different kind of stigma with gambling compared to other addictions. Even though it isn’t a drug you put in your body, we know gambling addiction lights up some of the same brain pathways we see in substance addictions,” said Gagnon.

The good news is for those who may be experiencing problem gambling, there is a network of providers in Maine with specialized training to offer treatment for a gambling disorder. There are even funds available to pay for treatment if insurance won’t cover the costs.”

The campaign’s public service announcement addresses the risks and warning signs of youth problem gambling, such as unexplained changes in behavior, poor school performance, or lack of interest in their usual activities. They may also be spending more time on the computer or phone. The PSA encourages the viewer to be aware of the signs, educate themselves and their teen about the consequences of gambling, and monitor their teen’s activity and internet use.

Those interested in learning more about problem gambling in Maine should visit the Maine Council on Problem Gambling website at www.maineproblemgambling.org or send an e-mail to info@maineproblemgambling.org

If you suspect a teen might have a gambling problem, call our 24-hour helpline at 2-1-1, or visit www.211maine.org.

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