“At the age of 16, more or less, a friend and I began to sneak into betting houses to throw in a euro. At 19, I started with the tipsters, people who are dedicated to studying bets. If people win easy money, because I do not? But then I was losing little by little and, then, the need to recover the money appeared. I came to leave what i needed for rent and food“.
This is the story of Sergio Guirao, a boy who, at only 22 years old, has a gambling addiction. In his talk with EL ESPAÑOL, he does not hesitate to put words to his problem: “I am a gambler“. The young man answers on the other end of the phone from Murcia, his birthplace and where he lives. “Now the people of my town stop me on the street to cheer me up,” he says with emotion.
It is not for less. His story went viral just a few days ago in Twitter. It was there that he decided to make his story public, with the intention of let off steam and talk about it openly. “I didn’t want anyone to get to the point of gambling the money they needed, as it happened to me,” she says emphatically.
At the moment, it seems that something has been achieved, since dozens of people have joined the thread of their messages, who have dared to make their addiction visible. It draws attention that most are young boysalthough this is something that, in the face of the reality shown by the data, is not unusual.
A rising profile
According to the report recently published by the General Directorate for the Regulation of Gambling (DGOJ), the number of people who have bet online has decreased in all ranges, except one, that of the youngest, which includes from 18 to 25 years old. Its figure reached in 2021 the 444,367 players8.45% more than in 2020. What is the same, 36,000 more players.
[Doctor Ferre, sabio de las adicciones: “Miles de mis pacientes han cambiado su vida con antidepresivos”]
“We have already stated in our memories that the profile of the gambling addict is changing“warns Juan Lamas, technical director of the Spanish Federation of Rehabilitated Gambling Players (Fejar), who stresses that, although the DGOJ report does not speak of clinical profiles, it is one more piece of information to add to the problem. If they increase gamblers, the more likely it is that gamblers will do so as well.
Lamas has been treating the problem of behavioral addictions for more than 30 years. In fact, he is the founder of the Galician Association of Anonymous Players (Agaja), where he also works as therapeutic director. According to him, ten years ago, the profile that was seen was that of a man in his 50s, addicted to slot machines and who had been playing for seven or eight years. Now, what we are talking about is a young person between 24 and 28 years oldwith a predilection for sports betting and/or online gaming and that he has been playing for about two years.
Sergio meets the profile. He explains that he did not have a fetish bet: “It was a bit varied, depending on the time”, but he used to focus on sports betting and online, despite the fact that everything started by throwing that damn eurillo in a betting house in his town when I was underage. “Since we were tall, it strained,” she confesses.
The transition from the bookmaker to online, it seems, is normal. according to research Youth, gambling and bettingNormally, they start playing with money in person, since betting houses and game rooms have become “a youth meeting point“. After the beginnings in these rooms, it is the online game that contributes to the consolidation of habits.
The factor social It is thus postulated as one of the explanations to understand why gambling now seems to be a problem for young people. Ángela García Fajardo, clinical psychologist specializing in child and adolescent at the Mind Group clinic also points to other factors, in this case, neurological. “teenagers they have their brain in full developmentespecially the prefrontal part, which is in charge of impulse control and decision-making,” he details.
Dopamine, the key
On the other hand, the expert refers to the brain reward system, which is activated in situations necessary for survival, such as eating. What it does is release dopamine, the neurotransmitter related to pleasure. “It’s the way the brain has reward us when we consider that we are doing something well for ourselves, such as ‘I have bet a little money and I have won much more'”, he relates.
[La España enganchada a la cocaína: “Nadie que consuma leerá esto por vergüenza”]
As with narcotics, the brain gets used to the release that accompanies each bet. There is no satisfaction effect anymore, so each time you need to bet more and more to get the first time effect. This is the cycle of addiction.
Added to all this, as Fajardo details, an adolescent’s brain is in dire need of dopamine. “That brain, which is also in development, is going to become over time the brain of an addict who You will believe that gambling is just as important as eating“.
That was exactly how Sergio realized his addiction, when he reached the point where he had spent the money he had to eat and pay that month’s rent on bets. It was not the only thing. The money for a trip that he wanted to give to his ex-partner was also struck down in his problem. “I had it all and I almost lost it because of a gambler“.
To this day, he does not know the exact amount that could have been left. “I calculate that it will be close to 10,000 euros. I think more, but I prefer not to know how much I have spent.” What he does know for sure is one thing: “I’ve been working for years and I don’t have a single euro“.
His moment of redemption came when he told his secret to his parents. “I felt terrible and I had to call them. First, because they had to help me financially, but also because I had to end all thisOtherwise, I wouldn’t know where I could go.”
Lamas explains that the first step to recovery is precisely that, telling everything. Then comes the professional therapyaccompanied by the typical phases of withdrawal from any drug: repressive phase and learning phase.
What happens here is that there is no substance involved, which usually causes many family members and friends to not fully understand this addiction: “With narcotics there is always the resource that the problem is the substance, not the substance.” person, but here you have to think about all the social factors that lead to the flow of the addict“explains the therapist.
Lamas does not hesitate to give an example: “Of course, the player does not swallow the coins or put the lottery tickets into his body to get hooked, but he has a lot of factors around him that are very normalized and they cause a psychological effect: having more money, power, being friends with your friends, etc.”
[Así es el infierno de un adicto a los videojuegos: “He llegado a jugar hasta 50 horas seguidas”]
The stimuli to encourage gambling, such as advertising, are today a matter of controversy. In February 2020, the Minister of Consumption, Alberto Garzón, proudly announced the processing of regulations for limit online gambling advertising on radios and televisions at dawn, from one to five.
Just two days later, he backed off and explained that the ban would be left out of matches that were live and from eight in the eveninga jug of cold water for movements to combat gambling.
During the first state of alarmGiven the increase in online betting, a emergency decree close to the current idea, although in June, coinciding with the return of professional football, he was overthrown.
In November 2020, the Royal Decree on Commercial Communications of Gambling Activities was announced, which came into force gradually. Its definitive application took place in August 2021. From that date, gambling advertising was limited to dawn. In addition, several measures have been introduced for the specific protection of minorssuch as the prohibition of any type of advertising of this matter directed at them.
start in youth
That last one is very important. According to a study carried out by the Gambling Unit of the Ramón y Cajal Hospital in Madrid “addiction to gambling usually begins in adolescence and youth“. Meanwhile, the investigation Vulnerability and risk in adolescents: profile of the online gambler reflects that almost 20% of adolescents have gambled online before the age of majority. Here Sergio’s words resonate a lot: “We were 16 years old when we went to the betting houses, but, since we were tall, he strained.”
What all these young people do not know is the hard road that the rehabilitation of a gambling addict takes. Henceforth, no watching matches. They won’t even be able to go back to something as innocent as play ludo. “The problem of watching a game or playing ludo is how the person reacts, since they feel the same stimuli of competition, of winning. When they repeat the feeling, it doesn’t matter if there is money or not, he feels that he is competing and that he has to win“, explained Lamas.
[La España ‘colgada’ del lexatin: “He llegado a tomar ansiolíticos como si fueran gominolas”]
His words are harsh, but they also bring hope. With therapy and help, you can get out, although unlike a cocaine rehab, a gambling addict will have to live with his drug on a day-to-day basis. Society, unfortunately, does not avert this problem. “It is very striking to me that betting is so normalized and compulsive gambling is not“Sergio laments.
The speech fits with the controversial announcement, just a few days ago, by the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, about allow credit card payment in betting houses. Currently, only debit cards and cash are accepted. The Regional Federation of Neighborhood Associations of Madrid has denounced the measure, considering it “a setback” due to the possible danger involved in accepting this medium as an exchange.
“I have received desperate testimonies, of ruined people who have thought about taking their own life“, confesses Sergio. And he? Did it get to such a point? “I don’t mind answering, the truth is that no, but I did see myself very overwhelmed,” admits the young man. Now, after telling it, he says he has taken off the weight of above. He wants to fight more than ever. “I feel strong and I’m going to keep going.”
If you have problems with gambling addiction, Fejar has a free 24-hour hotline: 900 533 025.
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