Treating a Gambling Addiction with Psychedelic Therapy

Despite its normalization in our culture, a gambling addiction presents very serious risks to your life, relationships, and assets. | Image Source: Flickr Commons user Marc Flores
Despite its normalization in our culture, a gambling addiction presents very serious risks to your life, relationships, and assets. | Image Source: Flickr Commons user Marc Flores

It may not be the first thing you think of when talking about addiction, but a gambling addiction is a serious matter that can destroy a life as readily as a cocaine addiction. Pouring all their assets into poker, roulette, races, or online gambling, Americans lose almost $100 billion per year gambling. As assets are lost, relationships are destroyed, and despite the catastrophic losses, there remains the hope that a big win is just around the corner. Debt accrues, and so does the feeling that all hope is lost and that you are beyond recovery. A truly unfortunate statistic is that 20% of gambling addicts attempt suicide.

Dealing with a serious non-drug addiction presents a unique set of challenges, and chief among them is finding effective treatment. Because addictions like this are not as publicized as sensational drug addiction stories, as a society we don’t give gambling, and other “psychological” addictions, the gravity they deserve. Twelve-step programs are the norm for dealing with these addictions, but sometimes these programs are just not in line with what an individual may need.

Why How Psychedelic Therapy Works for Addiction

We have ample evidence that psychedelic therapy—a comprehensive psychospiritual treatment where a psychedelic like ibogaine, psilocybin, or ayahuasca is taken in a safe, supportive environment, with an experienced guide, medical monitoring, and post-treatment experience integration—is effective for treating myriad drug addictions, from alcohol to heroin. But psychedelic therapy can just as readily be applied to non-drug addictions.

Even though the story we’re told too often in the media is that drug addiction happens because of a chemical “hook,” the reality is that addiction is a more complex set of psychosocial factors, as demonstrated by Bruce Alexander’s Rat Park experiment. All addictions—whether to drugs, sex, gambling, or other compulsive behaviors—have a common root of isolation, hopelessness, and lack of psychospiritual integration.

Oftentimes, early traumas can lead to setting up defense mechanisms that prevent deep connection with others, even if you are surrounded by a loving family. Yes, card-playing and other forms of gambling are an ancient part of human culture, but the world we live in today — which dislocates individuals in their communities — increasingly fosters gambling addiction.

Psychedelic therapy is specifically suited to restoring that integration, opening us up, and giving us the tools to reconnect with family, friends, community, and our spirituality (whether that comes in the form of your religion of choice or the universe itself). It can be effective for breaking free from any addiction.

Why Iboga May Be Best for a Gambling Addiction

Though it’s known for its success in treating opiate addiction, iboga and ibogaine in particular may work well for those wishing to address the root causes of a gambling addiction. This is because iboga reliably brings up formative experience, particularly those that were traumatic, and may have led to the defense mechanisms preventing us from bonding with others, and bonding instead to our “drug” of choice. Passing through the distinct phases of the iboga journey, these experiences are recontextualized and we can finally process them. After the experience, it’s best to consciously integrate and consolidate the journey with the help of a recovery coach or facilitator.

These benefits from psychedelic therapy, of course, can extend to any addiction, and other psychedelics are also effective. The deep personal insight, interruption of established habits, and psychological “opening-up” afforded by psychedelic therapy is what is necessary to break free from any addiction. Whether an addiction is to gambling, drugs, video games, or the internet, realize that there is concrete hope beyond abstinence and twelve-step programs.

 

Psychotherapists and other experts are harnessing the transcendent power of psychedelics to treat mood disorders, substance addiction, and much more. The staff at Psychedelic Times is here to provide guidance and support through the processes of psychedelic integration and recovery coaching. Contact us with your questions about psychedelic therapy―the journey starts today.

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Roger R.
Roger is a writer, researcher, and advocate for psychedelic research and treatment thanks to his experience with harm reduction and stress research, in the field with a mobile syringe exchange program, and in his personal life supporting loved ones who struggle with addiction.