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July 11, 1986 - Image 51

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-07-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

GOING TO THE AIRPORT?
BUSINESS OR VACATION

,

Compulsive Gambling:
A Problem Among Jews

r

MARLENE GOLDMAN

A

While gambling, the
person may create a
fantasy world where
he feels influential
and respected.

1

clinical term, pathological
gambling, at the recent three
day national conference on Ad-
dictions in the Jewish Communi-
ty, sponsored by the Council of
Jewish Federations and the
Federation of Jewish Philan-
thropies of New York.
The compulsive gambler often
describes the effects of gambling
as similar to a combination of
stimulant-tranquilizer analgesic.
While gambling, the person may
create a fantasy world where he
feels influential and respected.
The four most common types
of gambling are horse racing,
sports betting, casino games
and stock options or futures.
Women, who constitute 20 per-
cent of the gamblers, are fre-
quently attracted to games in-
volving less money. They often
participate in church or
synagogue bingo matches, Las
Vegas night activities at local
organizations, and the lottery.
There is a link between the
current Jewish gambling prob-
lem and Jewish history and
tradition, according to Louis
Linn, M.D., clinical professor
Emeritus of Psychiatry at

Mount Sinai School of Medicine
and a consultant in psychiatry
to Mount Sinai Medical Center.
In the study "Jews and
Pathological Gambling," pub-
lished in the book Addictions in
the Jewish Community, Linn at-
tempts to illustrate how the
Jewish religion and history have
combined to possibly make Jews
more susceptible to compulsive
gambling.
"If one considers the Jewish
historical experience, replete
with danger, uncertainty, am-
biguity, repeated uprootings and
exile ... and the need to start over
again ... in foreign lands and
among unfriendly strangers, one
begins to understand why the
capacity to erotize anxiety has
`had survival value for the Jews,"
Linn said.
The gambles of day-to-day life
and the need for recreation and
excitement in the ghettos has,
according to Linn, caused Jews
to be prone to compulsive
gambling. Playing with the
Chanukah draidel, betting
games using nuts on Rosh
Hashanah, and those who
celebrate Purim, the Feast of
Lots, by gambling have all ex-
posed the Jews to the thrill of
taking risks.
There is also a tendency to
"Jewish optimism," according to
Linn, which stems from the feel-
ing of being the "chosen people."
This correlates with the inclina-
tion of the compulsive gambler
to be superstitious, a kind of per-
sonal religion which makes him
believe he is lucky.
The majority of the compul-
sive gamblers are handled by
Gamblers Anonymous which in-
sists on a cessation of gambling
and full repayment of loans. GA
is a voluntary fellowship of com-
pulsive gamblers gathered to
help themselves and each other.
Membership is free for GA and
many can recover fully with GA
alone.
According to Custer, "Where
we're really lacking is good solid
research." There is no national
program to combat compulsive
gambling, but the federal
government and seven or eight
states do provide funds for treat-
ment and study of the problem.
There is research at the Na-
tional Institute of Mental
Health to study the brain
chemistry of compulsive gam-
blers and see if there is a defi-
ciency in certain enzymes or
biological substances. "We think
this is a factor," said Custer.
Recovery for compulsive gam-
blers is facilitated by their per-
sonality strengths. "Gamblers
are wonderful people," Blume
said. "They're bright, hard work-
ing and they care. Once they
realize their problem, they put
tremendous energy into
recovery."
Jewish Telegraphic Agency,
1986.

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bout 25 percent of some
3 to 4 million compulsive
gamblers in the United
States are Jewish, an over-
representation for a relatively
small community, said Robert
Custer, chief of the treatment
services division of the Mental
Health and Behavorial Sciences
Service at the Veterans Admini-
stration Central Office in
Washington.
"Many Jews fit the profile of
the compulsive gambler," said
Custer, who is also a medical ad-
visor to the National Council on
Compulsive Gambling. "They're
ambitious, competitive, of
superior intelligence, hard driv-
ing, energetic and action
oriented."
Of the 900 compulsive gam-
blers Custer has treated, the
average have completed two
years of education beyond high
school, and are most often at-
torneys, accountants, bankers
and stock brokers, popular oc-
cupations among the Jewish
community.
Custer, a diplomat of the
American Board of Psychiatry
and Neurology in Psychiatry,
discussed the characteristics
and possible treatment asso-
ciated with compulsive, or the

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