More often than not, addiction is characterised in terms of physical dependence, however, addiction can occur in many forms. There are a number of behavioural/process addictions, one of which that is particularly common in Namibia is gambling. Gambling can change from being a seemingly innocent leisurely activity, to becoming destructive if done in excess.
The regulation of gambling in Namibia can become difficult, due to the existence of shebeens and bars, particularly amongst the underprivileged communities across the country. This process addiction can contribute to several socio-economic challenges, especially within the family structure of the addict. Excessive gambling often leads to bankruptcy and broken relationships which may place strain on the addict’s mental well-being. Financial losses due to gambling deals going bad may result in experiences of anxiety, led by depression and even suicidal thoughts.
In bars in areas such as Katutura, it is rare to find a working gambling machine left unoccupied, not to mention the casual/informal gambling that occurs on the streets and in homes. For a gambling addict, any means to satisfy that “high” – whether it may be card games with friends, betting on sports games or even spontaneous dares – will be difficult to resist.
Gambling addictions are not limited to poorer households, and are rather common in influential and more financially stable family units. It can become so detrimental that previously affluent households may have to resort to selling properties and scaling down to feed the habit as well as to settle debt. It becomes difficult for a gambling addict, as with any addict (both physical and behavioural), to restore trust amongst loved ones when it comes to handling money.
Fortunately, there are casinos and other gambling houses which recognise the dangers associated with excessive gambling. They aim to educate gamblers on the risks involved, and some have even put measures in place such as offering gamblers the option to sign a form banning them voluntarily from the casino. This approach can become particularly useful in instances of a relapse, barring the addict from entering the gambling house.
Behavioural/process addictions such as gambling may not be physically as dangerous as substance abuse, but can undoubtedly be just as damaging. Namibians need to be made aware of the implications before partaking in the activity; avoid turning an entertaining and social pastime into something that can be potentially negative and life altering.