Addiction an increasing problem, with temptation to gamble now all around us

Ofcom say there were 1.39 million gambling ads on UK channels last year, an increase of nearly 600 per cent since the Gambling Act 2005 came into force

LAST week I introduced you to Peter Pallin who, as a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, works with men and women with addiction problems.

Peter has a special interest in gambling which, strangely, isn’t classified as an addiction but as an ‘impulse control disorder’ – and if you think of it, that covers a lot of conditions.

I’ve a sweet tooth and reckon I‘m addicted to chocolate eclairs, lemon meringue pies and digestive biscuits. Now I have to face the fact that I have an impulse control disorder. Will this make it easier for me to manage my diet? Understanding is one step towards a new regime no matter what the challenge.


Peter, himself a one-time gambler and alcoholic, recognises that temptations are greater than ever, with ads for betting organisations all around us – bookmakers, the lottery, arcades offering the ‘casino experience’, online bingo; TV ads for apparently easy money.

Ofcom say there were 1.39 million gambling ads on UK channels last year, an increase of nearly 600 per cent since the Gambling Act 2005 came into force opening the door to TV advertising for sports and poker betting. The news now is that next week the government will publish its review into online gambling.

And what about Wayne Shaw and his pie!? He was forced to resign after the Sutton verses Arsenal FA Cup match when an investigation was sparked due to a betting sponsor offering odds of 8-1 for him to eat the pie live on air. All caught on BBC television.

The expression “I bet you...” is more relevant than ever and easier with the majority of betting being carried out online with a credit card.

In general compulsive gamblers are forced to become devious. Other gamblers might know what’s going on but it’s difficult for families and friends to pick up the telltale signs.

I remember interviewing a man who was so desperate for gambling money he sold his wife’s wedding ring. It’s a heartbreaking and insidious addiction which, sadly, sometimes ends in suicide.

There are many types of addiction, alcohol being top of the list. I was shocked to find empty bottles in the hot press after a friend stayed for a few days. My own father was an alcoholic and he was an inspiration to many during his ‘recovery’ which went on until his death 63 years later.


Recently in a chemist's a woman rushed in and demanded a co-codamol product off the shelf. “The strong one.” For pain or for habitual use?

Years ago a man came into my pharmacy and asked for kaolin and morphine – not readily available any more. There were three bottles behind the counter. “I’ll take them all – don’t shake them.” The morphine had risen to the top, easy to syphon off.

What can a chemist do? Non-prescription drugs are freely available. Doctors do what they can and advise patients on the dangers of strong painkillers but it’s known that friends will feign illness just to get a supply for an addicted mate. Apparently some addicts even register with a number of different surgeries just to get prescriptions.

Nothing’s new. An elderly man told me how Imperial Leather aftershave and tonic water was the tipple of choice when he was a boy, either that or Phensic tablets and coke. Schoolboy bravado or the beginning of addiction?


Peter has general advice for family members.

“If you are suspicious it’s important to watch for signs, the person becoming secretive, lying, preoccupied, no time for personal relationships, going missing for hours at a time always with some excuse. In fact you might suspect an affair," he warns.

"Constantly on their phone – such an easy way to place a bet. If you have a joint bank account monitor it carefully and watch for money and possessions disappearing in the house.

"The vast majority of people have a flutter or gamble responsibly but statistics show that 2.3 per cent of adults have a serious problem. No-one knows how many under age children are gambling.”

It’s frightening that in China children are opting out of school to become professional gamblers.

The Northern Ireland Gambling Prevalence Survey shows that we have a higher proportion of problem gamblers than anywhere else in the UK and that number more than doubled since 2010.


Looking to the future, Peter Pallin is concerned about the interest in pornography which seems to be gripping the land. Look at the perfume ads, for instance – short stories which I think are often sensual to the point of porn. Watching this material may well encourage sales but it excites the senses, as do erotic films, so often giving a sense of unrealistic expectations and leading to fixation, relationship breakdown and dreadful unhappiness.

Forget the ‘watershed’ – it doesn’t exist because children don’t have strict bedtimes any more and promos for violence and sexual storylines in ‘soaps’ begin early in the evening.

As with any concern, if you are at all worried for yourself or someone you know, seek professional advice immediately. It’s important to understand how best to approach the problem to make sure of the best long-term outcome.

Counselling and rehabilitation are vital and come in many shapes and forms. Take, for instance, work on show in the Linen Hall Library exhibition From The Ashes. Richard Kelly, visual artist, counsellor and tutor works with recovering alcoholics.

“The group have used art to help rebuild their lives. In sobriety, their previous skills and artistic creativity have been resurrected to produce beautiful handmade guitars, musical instruments, crafts and sculptures that show the journey of recovery.” Building on the positive. ‘From The Ashes’ on the fourth floor of the library runs until the end of this month.

Peter’s contact, in strict confidence, is or telephone 0772 9000 926. At Belfast Gamblers Anonymous (028 9024 9185) there is always someone to talk to; the same with Alcoholics Anonymous (028 9035 1222).


Need your piano tuned in time for Christmas parties? The answer next week, with news of an award-winning young man from Derry with a very unusual line of work.

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