The cycle of gambling addiction can seem impossible to break, and there’s new evidence illustrating its severity.

The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ) released a statement on Monday noting that problem gambling is just as hard a habit to kick as an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

In the statement, CCGNJ Executive Director Neva Pryor emphasized the fact that, while process addictions like gambling are, technically speaking, different than substance addictions, the end results are similar: financial, relational, psychological, and physiological damage.

“For problem gamblers and gambling addicts, behaviors such as ‘chasing losses,’ the need to bet increasingly large amounts of money, and blackouts while gambling have damaging consequences on finances, relationships and health,” she said.

How gambling becomes an addiction

The term “process addiction” stems from the process by which the affected person takes something normal and becomes abnormally addicted to it.

Gambling is the prime example. While there is nothing inherently dangerous about gambling, or illegal in states that allow it, problem gamblers can turn the act into a “compulsive, destructive pattern” over time.

Suicide rates high among problem gamblers

While the CCGNJ press release was informative, we talked with Pryor to get more information about problem gambling as it relates to substance abuse.

Pryor told us that problem gamblers feel the same endorphin rush as drug addicts, but without ingesting any substances. She went on to say that the tricky part about gambling addictions is that, unlike substance abuse, there aren’t visible signs of danger, like weight loss, rotted teeth, and needle marks.

“A lot of the times the family doesn’t know there’s a problem until the end, when the house is in foreclosure or the pension plan is all gone,” Pryor said. “That’s why it needs to be seen as important as any other addiction.”

She went on to point out perhaps the most sobering statistic: 18-20 percent of problem gamblers will attempt suicide.

“The gambler can look good every day, but, say, if they bet all of their children’s savings, that can throw them right into an immediate depression and cause suicide,” Pryor said.

Anyone struggling with problem gambling can call 1-800-GAMBLER for help.

Problem goes beyond table games, sports, slots

Daily fantasy sports is the newest avenue of addiction for problem gamblers, the CCGNJ said.

CCGNJ Assistant Executive Director Daniel Trolaro called the rise in DFS problem gambling “alarming and disturbing.” The ability to play DFS contests on a daily basis means problem gamblers turn the game into a regular habit.

When that happens, Trolaro wrote, the brain creates neural pathways that accommodate the habit. He referenced a 2014 study published in Addictive Behaviors that noted DFS players are more likely to participate in sports betting than those who don’t play DFS.

“It is also certainly no surprise that the websites of some of the biggest daily fantasy names on the market have designed their interface in similar fashion to Vegas or online sportsbooks,” Trolaro said.

CCGNJ doesn’t have to worry about DFS just yet

This year’s wrangling with daily fantasy sports in the statehouse did not see a law regulating and legalizing DFS enacted. Most DFS operators, however, continue to take users from New Jersey.

It remains to be seen whether New Jersey lawmakers will pass a DFS bill in 2017. However, as experts have pointed out, the best way to make headway would be to first pass a DFS bill, have in-state casinos take prop bets and then see what the professional sports leagues do.