From Niagara Falls and the Seneca One Building to the Mario Cuomo Bridge: NY Shines the Light on Problem Gambling

Niagara Falls and the Seneca One Building in downtown Buffalo are among several NYS landmarks joining the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC) to recognize March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM). The two local landmarks will be lit up yellow on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. Other sites honoring PGAM are the five towers in the City of Rochester, Yates Co. Government Building, Syracuse City Hall, National Grid Building, Barclay Damon Building, SUNY System Administration Building, Mid-Hudson Bridge, and the Mario Cuomo (Tappan Zee) Bridge.

The Western New York Problem Gambling Resource Center, a program of the NY Council on Problem Gambling (NYCPG), is calling on everyone in WNY to shine the light on problem gambling, an issue that impacts millions of American adults. With the rapid expansion of gambling and the record-breaking introduction of mobile sports betting, it is imperative that all our communities collaborate to raise awareness of problem gambling, prevent any additional problems related to gambling, and get those in need to adequate, local support services.

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 2 million U.S. adults (1%) are estimated to meet criteria for severe gambling problems in a given year. Another 4-6 million (2-3%) would be considered to have mild or moderate gambling problems; that is, they meet one of more of the criteria and are experiencing problems due to their gambling behavior.

The effects of problem gambling are not isolated to the individual gambling. It’s been estimated that 8-10 additional people can be negatively affected by one person’s gambling behaviors (Petry et al, 2005). These people include family members, friends, neighbors and even coworkers. If we account for individuals experiencing gambling problems and others who are affected, the estimate of those affected by problem gambling is between 64 and 80 million people.

Not only are we shining the light on the issue of problem gambling, we also want that light to be a beacon for anyone who might be negatively affected by a gambling problem – there is hope and help! If you or someone you know is experiencing things like distress, financial problems, or relationship conflicts because of gambling, the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center provides local, confidential support. Call (716) 833-4274 email WesternPGRC@nyproblemgambling.org or visit our website NYProblemGamblingHELP.org. We’re here to help.

The Western Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC) is a program of the New York Council on Problem Gambling dedicated to addressing the issue of problem gambling within New York State. The vision of the PGRC is the positive transformation of lives harmed by problem gambling. The PGRC focuses efforts on increasing public awareness of problem gambling; connecting clients with treatment, recovery and support services; and promoting healthy lifestyles which foster freedom from problem gambling. Visit www.NYProblemGamblingHELP.org to learn more about the PGRC network.  The New York Council on Problem Gambling (NYCPG) is a not-for-profit independent corporation dedicated to increasing public awareness about problem and compulsive gambling and advocating for support services and treatment for persons adversely affected by problem gambling. NYCPG maintains a neutral stance on gambling and is governed by a Board of Directors. Find out more at NYProblemGambling.org.

Fillmore’s Reality Check Participates in Through with Chew Week

ACASA’s Ann Weaver and Fillmore’s Reality Check member Selena Leonard.

While youth vaping may be the topic on everyone’s lips, many high school students and adults use chew and other forms of smokeless tobacco.

During Through With Chew Week, February 20-26, members of Reality Check groups in Fillmore raised awareness in their community, on the dangers of chewing tobacco and other smokeless tobacco products.

Students created a display in the form of a mouth, with teeth displaying facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and additional health studies on potential health problems.

Smokeless tobacco:

· Can lead to nicotine addiction.

· Can cause cancer of the mouth, esophagus and pancreas.

· Is associated with diseases of the mouth.

· May increase the risk for death from heart disease and stroke.

“Many people think that smokeless tobacco is less dangerous or harmless compared to smoking cigarettes, and that just isn’t true” states Reality Check Coordinator Jon Chaffee. In addition, a study of internal tobacco industry documents found that smokeless tobacco product manufacturers added flavors to their products to attract new users, especially young men.

Allegany County residents who want to quit can contact ACASA’s Ann Weaver at (585) 593-1920 for free local cessation or visit alleganycouncil.org. Also, the New York State Smokers’ Quitline provides FREE support to those thinking about quitting smokeless tobacco, including patches, gum or lozenges, as well as support from a Quit Coach. Call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or visit www.nysmokefree.com to explore all the free services available to New Yorkers

Reality Check wants to give a special “Thanks” to Fillmore Shop’n Save and owner Randy Ellis for allowing them to decorate the front windows and help them educate the community.

Children of Addiction Awareness Week

The week of February 13th marks the Children of Addiction Awareness week, formerly known as Children of Alcoholics Awareness week, a campaign led by The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) to raise awareness of children affected by parental alcohol problems.  NACoA is now known as The National Association for Children of Addiction, as 1 in 7 people will experience a substance use disorder, and 18 million children are directly affected.  COAs are more likely than others to have emotional, psychological, or physical problems related to their childhood.  Many develop an alcohol problem and/or other addictive habits, and/or marry someone with an alcohol problem or some other type of addiction.  COAs often learn special rules and roles, which include attempting to protect the family image, keeping feelings to themselves, not trusting others, assuming parental responsibilities, excelling at school, trying to make others feel better, adapting to situations in a detached fashion, or using negative behavior to attract attention.  If these behaviors are not addressed, an adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA) may have trouble expressing feelings, can’t seem to relax, are loyal to others beyond reason, are overly responsible, fear losing control, fear being abandoned, are overly self-critical, and have difficulty with relationships.  In general, COAs have higher rates of stress-related illnesses and conditions, including ulcers, depression, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, tension, anxiety, and eating disorders.  The positive news is that help is available, and COAs can be helped even when their parent continues to drink.  It is important that COAs recognize the special risks they face, understand how past experiences may be affecting their lives, and get the kind of help that is best for them.

For more information visit NACoA and COA Awareness Week.

#OneCaringAdult

Positive relationships protect children from high-risk behaviors. Sometimes all it takes is #onecaringadult to make a difference.

The Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc. (ACASA) is a proud partner of the Trauma-Informed Communities throughout Allegany County Coalition in creating a new initiative that supports adults in their role as mentors, coaches, and caregivers.

The project provides basic tips and strategies adults may use if they encounter a child who reports, or they suspect, of:

  • sexual abuse,
  • dating violence,
  • bullying,
  • online sexual exploitation,
  • sexually transmitted infections,
  • questioning their sexuality,
  • misusing alcohol and/or other drugs,
  • pregnancy,
  • mental illness,
  • toxic stress or academic stress, or
  • contemplating suicide.

So many of these problems are related to, or a result of, adverse childhood experiences that can last a lifetime. #onecaringadult equips community members with resources and information to help.

For further information on #onecaringadult, visit www.traumainformedalleganycounty.org.

New Year, New Start 2022!

The beginning of a new year often brings intentions of making positive changes.  Regardless of one’s views on substances, here are a few things to consider.

A study conducted by John Hopkins University revealed that the alcohol sales from retail locations the week of 3/21/20 was 54% higher than the same week in 2019.  Online sales increased 234% in 2020 during the first 6 weeks of COVID, compared to 2019.  Just last month, Buffalo News reported that alcohol consumption has increased.  Due to easy access to online ordering, lack of monitoring for proper identification of legal purchasing age, and the idea that it’s safe to drink at home as driving is unnecessary can lead to higher risk drinking.  Those 21 and older may be self-medicating in isolation, “passing out” from drinking too much, and experiencing health issues of which others may not be aware.  For those under the age of 21, accessibility and availability are both risk factors for experimentation and possible addiction.  Parents are the most influential people in their children’s lives and need to set the example for a substance-free lifestyle.  Sixty one-minute conversations on the importance of not using substances tend to be more effective than a one sixty-minute conversation, including key points that alcohol can damage the brain and body, which continue to develop into the mid-20’s, and family history of addiction.

The results of another recent study showed that women have increased their heavy drinking days by 41%.  Possible reasons may include attempting to “keep up with men” and pressure to handle stress, which may be connected to drinking in secret.  In addition, alcohol packaging/marketing and drinks that appeal to women, such as seltzers, carbonated beverages, fruity flavors, and those claiming lower calories may lead some to mistakenly believe that those drinks are less harmful and/or intoxicating.

Quitting tobacco is rarely successful on the first attempt, due to the addictive nature of nicotine.  However, effective supports do exist, including the New York State Quitline at 1-866-697-8487, or online at http://www.nysmokefree.com.  Allegany County residents are encouraged to call Allegany Council at 585-593-1920, ext. 713, for free classes. 

Tips for quitting include “S.T.A.R.”:

Set a date.

Tell people about the quit attempt.

Anticipate challenges.

Remove triggers. 

Applying the “5 D’s” is also important:

Drink water.

Deep breathe.

Delay the urge for a craving.

Do something else.

Discuss feelings with someone. 

Cinnamon-flavored gum, candy, or tea may also help to fight cravings to use tobacco.     

The legalization of recreational marijuana for those 21 and older has provided opportunities for further education in the community.  Depending on the individual, it is possible to become psychologically addicted, while others do experience physical withdrawal symptoms when cutting back or attempting to abstain.  When speaking to those under 21 who may be tempted to use illegally, due to the same reasons of availability and accessibility that accompany underage drinking, remember the “4 M’s”: memory, motivation, maturity, and motor skills.  The hippocampus is the part of the brain connected to learning and memory, and is directly affected by marijuana use.  As mentioned earlier, protection of the brain and body until fully developed is crucial, as studies have shown that delaying the onset of substance use is directly related to the decreased probability of lifelong harmful effects and addiction.     

If you as reader are wondering how you can make a difference, be the responsible adult who does not enable underage substance use.  Use teachable moments to talk to youth about positive alternatives to substance use, such as exercise, connecting to positive people, playing games, painting, reading, etc. 

Resources pertaining to the topics above include Talk2Prevent, for marijuana facts through Smart Approaches to Marijuana, PPAC Central, and the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc. (ACASA).  Call the Allegany Council’s Clinic to schedule an evaluation if you are struggling with substance use at 585-593-6738.  Counselors are there to help! 

Don’t give up your resolutions! 

Make a plan, get back on track, and remember: Prevention Works!

NEW YORK COUNCIL ON PROBLEM GAMBLING CALLS FOR THE LEGISLATURE AND COMMUNITY PARTNERS TO FIGHT PROBLEM GAMBLING IN ANTICIPATION OF MOBILE SPORTS BETTING CONSEQUENCES

Albany, NY– On December 6, 2021, the New York Council on Problem Gambling is asking NYS Lawmakers, the press and community partners to join together to show support for problem gambling prevention, treatment and recovery.  This 30 minute, live, Zoom event will briefly educate attendees, provide recommendations, and call on all New Yorkers to take action.

Council Executive Director, Jim Maney said, “more than ever before we need to show our strength in numbers, we need to educate the public about what is coming, and we need to take action to ensure the consequences experienced by our legalized mobile sports betting predecessors are prevented and mitigated”.

During this event the Council will call on the State of New York to do more for those individuals and families who are struggling with the consequences of problem gambling.  “Resources are inadequate at the current level”, said Assistant Executive Director of Program, Michelle Hadden, “the question from all of us should be why?  With billions of dollars in revenue coming from state sponsored gambling, why aren’t we providing adequately to prevent the problems and deal with the consequences?” To join the hundreds already registered for this event on December 6th from 12:30-1:00 PM EST., register here.

For more information on People, Purpose, Passion or to chat with someone immediately for help, please visit StrongerThanYouThinkNY.org . For local information and resources on problem gambling visit the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center.

Community Members Clean Out Medicine Cabinets at Fall Pill Drop

Belfast and Whitesville– On Saturday, October 23 the Allegany County Fall Pill Drop was held in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Belfast and Whitesville were chosen for the fall locations.  The pill drop event allows the community to drop off unused, expired, or unwanted medications, vape devices, and provides the opportunity for education on the location of the pill drop boxes in the various communities.

This event was held in partnership with the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc.(ACASA), the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office, and Partners for Prevention in Allegany County(PPAC). Medications were accepted from 10am to 2pm, and between the two locations, a total of 30 cars participated and 61.8 pounds of medications were collected.

Each car that stopped received a Take It To The Box magnet, which lists all of the pill drop box locations throughout Allegany County, which includes: the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office and Nicholson Pharmacy in Belmont, Alfred Pharmacy and Alfred State’s Office of University Police, Cuba Police Department, Fillmore Pharmacy, Friendship Pharmacy, Jones Memorial Medical Practice in Bolivar, Wellsville Police Department and the Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville. This calendar year, 722.8 pounds of medications have been collected from the pill drop box locations.

“The pill drop boxes continue to be a great asset to our county. By utilizing these boxes to dispose of unused medication, it ensures their safe destruction which prevents possible abuse. The drop boxes are conveniently located at various locations across the County and are easy to use. We continue to encourage all of our residents to take advantage of this program” said Undersheriff Scott Cicirello.

The pill drop events and boxes are completely anonymous and confidential. The collected medications are transported to an undisclosed location for incineration by the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office. Incinerating the medications makes them harmless to the environment. “The pill drop events allow us to educate the community on the importance of safe storage, safe disposal, and where the drop boxes are located throughout the county” states PPAC Coordinator Jonathan Chaffee. “We are currently working on establishing two more Take It to the Box locations, which would help outlying communities properly dispose of unwanted and unused medications.”

Allegany County also has free sharps/needle disposal available at all Allegany County Transfer Stations. The days and times that these locations are open are different per location. Below is a listed of all the locations.

  • Alfred, 394 Satterlee Hill Road. Open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 8am to 3:30pm.
  • Belmont, 6006 County Road 48. Open Tuesday through Saturday 8am to 3:30pm.
  • Bolivar, 135 Reed Street. Open Wednesday and Saturday 8am to 3:30pm.
  • Canaseraga, 89 West Main Street. Open Saturday 8am to 3:30pm.
  • Caneadea, 9425 Molyneaux Road. Open Wednesday and Saturday 8am to 3:30pm.
  • Cuba/Friendship, 7912 County Road 20. Open Thursday and Saturday 8am to 3:30pm.
  • Wellsville, 77 Dyke Street. Open Tuesday through Saturday 8am to 3:30pm.

For any questions on the Allegany County Sharps Disposal Program contact Recycling Coordinator Tim Palmiter (585) 268-7282.

The agencies involved would like to send out a special “Thank You” to the Belfast Fire Department and Independence Emergency Squad for giving us a space to hold the pill drop event. The next pill drop event will be held in April, 2022.  More information about the pill drop box locations can be found at https://ppaccentral.org/takeittothebox/ .

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month: The Impacts of Problem Gambling

According to the CDC (CDC, 2020) suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. This is a concerning statistic and many people struggle with their mental health every day. There are many factors that may lead someone to think that suicide is the only option, but have you ever thought about problem gambling as a source of emotional distress for someone?

There are many people who struggle with problem gambling in the United States. It is estimated that 2 million adults in the U.S. meet the criteria for gambling disorder, with another 4-6 million people in the U.S. struggling with problem gambling (National Council on Problem Gambling, 2020).

For many people, they can gamble and not have a problem. However, for some, gambling can cause problems in their lives.  Problem gambling is anytime gambling causes problems or negative consequences in someone’s life. Gambling disorder is a diagnosis by a qualified, trained professional determined by the criteria set forth in the DSM5.

 According to the DSM5, a diagnosis of gambling disorder requires at least four of the following during the past year:

  1. Need to gamble with increasing amount of money to achieve the desired excitement
  2. Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling
  3. Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on or stop gambling
  4. Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, thinking of ways to get money to gamble)
  5. Often gambling when feeling distressed
  6. After losing money gambling, often returning to get even (referred to as “chasing” one’s losses)
  7. Lying to conceal gambling activity
  8. Jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job or educational/career opportunity because of gambling
  9. Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling

It is important to remember that while all those with a gambling disorder are experiencing problem gambling, not all those struggling with problem gambling have a diagnosable gambling disorder. Whether someone is struggling with problem gambling or gambling disorder, they are at risk of having the negative consequences from gambling seep out into their everyday lives. These effects may not only impact the person struggling with gambling, but also impact their loved ones.

People who struggle with problem gambling are also at a higher risk for struggling with other mental health disorders. Two out of three gamblers reported that their mental health suffered as a result of their gambling problems.  In addition to struggling with gambling, they may be struggling with other mental health problems such as a mood disorders like depression, personality disorder, and anxiety. Someone struggling with their gambling may be cashing in retirement funds, college funds, or taking out additional credit cards and loans. These impacts can cause someone to feel hopeless, desperate, and alone.

These negative effects can take a toll on one’s mental health. Sadly, problem gambling has the highest suicide rate among all addictions. When we look at suicide in the United States, 3.9% of the adult population have suicidal ideations and 0.6% attempt suicide each year (CDC, 2015). While this statistic is alarming, we find that for problem gamblers, the concern continues to grow. It has been found that 37% of those struggling with problem gambling and 49% of those with a pathological Gambling Disorder have suicidal ideations. Statistics also show that 17% of problem gamblers and 18% of those with a Gambling Disorder attempt suicide. This rate is much higher than the general population, and we believe it’s important to raise awareness of this issue through educating community providers and clients.

Problem gambling is often referred to as “the hidden addiction” because there are no physical warning signs to “test for” problem gambling. It can be very difficult to spot, so it may be difficult to know if someone is struggling with this and may be having suicidal ideations. While there are no physical signs, there are still signs to look for if you think someone may be struggling with a gambling problem.  

Some things to look for are:

  • being absent from friend/family events because of gambling,
  • feeling stressed or anxious when not gambling,
  • low work performance due to absence or preoccupation with betting, and
  • lying to family and friends about how much money and time is spent on gambling.
  • relying on others to get out of debt, asking for loans or bailouts
  • using money needed for necessary expenses, such as food, rent, or medication for gambling

While we cannot physically test for problem gambling, there are screening and diagnostic tools that can be used to initiate a conversation about gambling. A common tool to use is the Brief Biosocial Gambling Screen, or the BBGS.

It is a simple three question screen that consists of yes or no answers.

  1. During the past 12 months, have you become restless, irritable or anxious when trying to cut down on gambling?
  2. During the past 12 months, have you tried to keep your family or friends from knowing how much you gambled?
  3. During the past 12 months, did you have such financial trouble as a result of your gambling that you had to get help with living expenses from family, friends or welfare?

If you, someone you know, or a client you work with answers yes to any of these questions, it may be time to start talking about problem gambling. Problem gambling can affect anyone at any point in their lives and can impact friends and families of those struggling with their gambling.  It can develop into a gambling disorder, which leads to damaged relationships with loved ones, difficulty at work, and financial problems. These problems can be detrimental to an individual’s mental health. It is important that we start to realize the importance of talking about problem gambling, and what impacts it may have on individuals. If we take the time to educate ourselves and start the conversation, we can help break the stigma and shame out of problem gambling and get those struggling the help that they need. If you or someone you know is struggling with problem gambling, they can visit Western New York Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC) or call 716-833-4274 to find out more and get connected to resources.

Submitted by: Jeffrey Wierzbicki

Authored by: Colleen Jones

Western Problem Gambling Resource Center

Be a Family Day STAR!

Monday, September 27th, marks the 21st anniversary of Family Day: Making Every Day Special, founded in 2001 by the Center on Addiction.  Research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has consistently found that the more often children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use other drugs.  Conversations during mealtime are a way for parents to stay connected and involved with their children.  Including youth in meal prep and clean-up instills a sense of responsibility and they are likely to feel like part of a team.  In addition to family bonding, kids who eat with their families are more likely to learn healthy eating habits, eat smaller portions, do better in school, and are less likely to stress about food.  Depending on weather, a picnic with board games would be a fun way to enjoy nature and appreciate each other’s company.

Televisions, cell phones, and other mobile devices should be turned off during dinner so each person can share the day’s events without distractions.  Trips in the vehicle can also be used as teachable, quality bonding time, as parents have a “captive” audience.  The earlier parents start connecting with their kids, the better.  If kids aren’t used to talking to their parents about what’s going on in their lives when they are eight or ten, it will be more difficult to get them talking when they are older.    

Teens are at greater risk of substance abuse as they move from middle school to high school, so, parents need to be especially attentive during this transition period.

If parents are unsure of how to start an age-appropriate conversation, they can access tips in the Parent Toolkit on the CASA Family Day website.  Other valuable information can also be found in the toolkit, such as “connecting” with kids, preventing substance use, background facts on substance use, family activities and worksheets, and tips for talking to kids about substance use.  To follow Family Day on social media like Partnerships to End Addiction on Facebook, partnershiptoendaddiction on Instagram and @ToEndAddiction. Family photos can be shared on social media using #NationalFamilyDay and #MyFamilySelfie. 

This year’s sponsors are Quest Diagnostics, American Express, and ACOSTA.  Partners include CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America), Faith and Fabric, Fathers Incorporated, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), National Military Family Association, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, Prevent Child Abuse America, SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), Super Healthy Kids, The Family Dinner Project, and The Moyer Foundation.

Celebrate with parents nationwide and pledge to commit to:

  • Spend time with your kids by playing games, taking a walk, or enjoying another family activity.
  • Talk to them about their friends, interests, and the dangers of using substances. 
  • Answer their questions and listen to what they say.
  • Recognize that parents have the power to keep their kids substance-free! A warm, supportive relationship between parents and their children is linked to better judgement, increased self-control, and resilience, which are strengths that help reduce the risk of future drug use.

Remember, parental engagement does make a difference, and prevention works!

Resources

Gambling Problems Don’t Make You a Terrible Person: September is Recovery Month

Often when problem gambling makes headlines, the focus is on the financial toll and the devastation experienced by spouses, children, and other loved ones. Although these are very impactful consequences of someone’s gambling problem, it can unfairly vilify the person without providing insight into their own struggle.

Problem gambling is the result of gambling causing problems in someone’s life, which may include poor mental health, conflicts with friends and family, financial trouble, and the like. For many, their problems can be the result of gambling disorder, a diagnosable behavioral disorder. As we have learned with issues related to alcohol or drug use, this behavior cannot be boiled down to a moral failing or lack of discipline.

Mental health issues could be the cause or effect of a gambling problem. Some people may have started gambling for fun but now experience a compulsion or need to keep gambling. Others may use gambling to escape worry, stress, or trauma in their lives. Either situation can lead to painful depression, anxiety, shame, thoughts of suicide, all of which can decrease the ability to make positive, rational decisions.

Certainly, there may be consequences for which a person with a gambling problem must take responsibility. However, to ensure that he or she can make amends for wrongdoing and avoid future problems, we must promote the individual’s and family’s health and wellness through support, treatment and recovery for problem gambling and gambling disorder.

The Western Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC) is here to support anyone being negatively impacted by problem gambling. If you’re dealing with problems related to your own gambling or someone else’s, call (716) 833-4274 or email WesternPGRC@nyproblemgambling.org to speak with a caring and knowledgeable PGRC staff who will connect you to the resources that will best meet your needs. Recovery and healing are possible.

Resources

Problem Gambling Palm Card

Underage Gambling Palm Card