Hype over massive Powerball jackpot could pose problems for gambling addicts

     A newsstand at 9th and Market Streets sells Powerball tickets Wednesday, August 7. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    A newsstand at 9th and Market Streets sells Powerball tickets Wednesday, August 7. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    What would you do with $425 million?

    The massive Powerball jackpot beckons from billboards and newspaper headlines. But all this excitement could mean added temptation for gamblers who are in recovery, says Philadelphia gambling counselor C.P. Mirarchi.

     “There are people who I treat who say, ‘The Powerball was so high I just bought a $2 ticket, I don’t even consider that gambling, because I gambled thousands of dollars in a casino,'” Mirachi said. “But to the compulsive gambler, that’s still what we’d call a lapse.”

    Philadelphia psychologist and addiction counselor Jeremy Frank agrees. When everybody is talking about the Powerball, and you see others lining up to buy tickets, it’s hard not to think about all that money.

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    “In the field, that’s the ‘people, places and things of addiction.’ It’s definitely a cause for concern,” he said.

    “People, places and things” refer to triggers that could cause a relapse. But, Frank adds, that those who are in recovery are, ideally, trained to deal with these triggers.

    “People in recovery have tools, they have social supports, friends and family, hobbies a therapist, a support group,” he said.

    Frank says the Powerball hype could lead to some interesting conversations, especially with young people,  about risk, odds, temptation and what makes people happy. By the way, research finds that an avalanche of cash does not lead to increased happiness.

    Mirarchi adds that most people playing the lottery do not have gambling problems.

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