Help for Addicts: Prevent Sufferers, Families from Becoming Isolated

Uncontrollable addiction to such things as gambling, alcohol and drugs is a disease requiring medical treatment. It is essential to provide support so that addicts and their families do not become isolated.

Gambling addiction has come under the spotlight as U.S. federal prosecutors have brought charges against a former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani. The former interpreter reportedly amassed huge debts from betting on sports and repeatedly made unauthorized transfers of money from the major leaguer’s bank account.

The American Psychiatric Association describes people with a gambling addiction as tending to return to gambling in an attempt to recoup their losses, to lie to hide their gambling activities, and to lose important relationships and jobs. Many of these traits can be said to apply to Ohtani’s former interpreter.

In Japan, about 2% of people age 18 or older are estimated to be suspected of being addicted to gambling. Recently, dependence on online casinos has become a societal problem. The increase in hours spent at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ease of gambling from home seem to have spurred the spread of gambling addictions.

With the spread of smartphones, more people have become addicted to not only gambling but also games, and drugs have become easier to obtain. Furthermore, many people have become unable to put down their smartphones day or night and spend many hours watching videos or using social media.

The risk of becoming addicted in daily life is increasing. Smartphones and games are not a problem when enjoyed in moderation, so it is difficult to realize that one is addicted to them. Of particular concern is the spread among junior high school and high school students. Some children are unable to go to school after the rhythm of their lives is disrupted.

People should realize that anyone can fall victim to addiction. It is important to be aware of abnormalities at home, work or school before the condition becomes serious.

Warning signs for addiction are posted on the websites of local governments and medical institutions, and they can be used as a guide to determine the severity of one’s condition. If the results are worrisome, a doctor should be consulted.

Effective psychotherapy is available for addiction. This process involves addicts talking to each other and correcting biases in their behavior and thinking, and it is covered by public health insurance programs.

In addition to drugs and alcohol, this therapy is also used for addictions to gambling and video games, among other things. Private self-help groups also provide similar programs, where addicts support each other.

When a person becomes addicted, they become unable to make rational judgments. It can easily lead to problems such as debts and violent behavior, which can involve family members.

When family members try to solve the problem on their own, it can cause emotional strain. Support for families should be expanded through such measures as developing a consultation system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 29, 2024)