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Why the ‘Invisible Addiction’ Has Increased During the Pandemic

Published: March 14, 2022

According to a recent study from the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), the risk of problem gambling has doubled since 2018. The growth is partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home orders, combined with a general lack of awareness of problem gambling. 

Gambling addiction is considered diagnosable and treatable. While problem gambling has its own set of criteria for diagnosis and treatment, many still don’t seek help for this often invisible and potentially life-threatening condition. According to a recent article in the Lima News, problem gambling can become hard to see and easier to hide than other mental health conditions, leaving about 2 million Americans struggling in silence every year. 

Gambling is considered “invisible” because it shows no physical symptoms, unlike alcohol on someone’s breath. Moreover, a problem with gambling often coexists with other problems like alcoholism or substance use disorder because gambling activates the same neural pathways in the brain. 

In addition to more individuals being at-risk of problem gambling, helplines have received more calls. For example, in 2021, the NCPG helpline saw nearly 21,700 calls per month nationwide, while in the two years before that, the average was around 16,600 per month. 

Due to the pandemic, online sports betting has increased, which has impacted problem gambling levels as well. Even before the pandemic, sports betting has been growing nationwide since the 2018 Supreme Court decision to legalize sports betting outside Nevada.

Whether it’s due to more advanced technology, additional stress, or time at home due to a global pandemic, the recent rise in gambling is connected to significant increases in problem gambling. That’s why organizations like Before You Bet are dedicated to providing Ohioans with education and awareness on this important topic.

Before You Bet has numerous resources available on for those who need help. This includes a two-minute quiz that can gauge your risk of problem gambling with a few simple questions. Take the quiz today at

There is also free and confidential support available 24/7 for you or someone you love who may need it by calling the problem gambling helpline at 1-800-589-9966 or texting 4HOPE to 741741.   

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