A YOUNG man who gambled away £100,000 has launched an initiative to stop other people going down a similar dangerous path.

Paul Pettigrew says he lost four years of his life squandering away wages, student loans and money borrowed from loved ones - landing himself in a staggering £28,000 worth of debt.

After placing his first bet at the age of 18 his entire life was soon in disarray.

He left university three times and stopped playing football due to the stress of his addiction.

The 24-year-old says he knew his behaviour was destructive and admits he feared he would end up homeless.

Paul sought help from friends and family in a 'now or never' moment two years ago and began rebuilding his life.

Drawing on his own experience, he has launched 'Gamtalk' - an organisation that sees Paul speak to people of all ages about the dangers of gambling and how to seek help.

The shop worker told the Tele: "I got to the point where I hated gambling and what I was doing, but I just couldn't stop.

"It wasn't only affecting my life, but the stress it was putting on my family too was horrible.

"My head was completely wasted.

"I knew that my gambling was ruining everything I had going in life.

"I was gambling all day, every day.

"I had the constant stress of owing people money and throwing away my future.

"It if wasn't for the support of my family I'd genuinely be on the streets with nothing."

Paul believes that gambling addiction is still a taboo subject and he feels schools and youth organisations could provide proper education on the dangers.

He told the Tele: "It's more than just putting a few quid in a machine, it can destroy every part of your life.

"I feel that we don't spend time educating young people, especially young guys, about just how scary it can be.

"What people don't realise is that everywhere we turn we're being prompted to gamble.

"I like football, so I'd be sitting on the bus putting a coupon on and then I'd go into the football grounds and it was all adverts from bookies everywhere I looked.

"Not many people talk about gambling addiction, it's usually drugs or alcohol.

"I think that makes it even harder to realise you've got an issue."

Paul hopes that Gamtalk will allow him to speak to people of all ages - particularly youngsters - about his experiences and prevent them following in his footsteps.

He said: "I hope to eventually get into schools, sports clubs, dancing clubs and other organisations to speak to people about gambling.

"While I'll be sharing my story, I've spent a long time researching everything to make sure that I can present all the facts and show people just how damaging it is.

"I've also started a Facebook and Instagram page where people of all ages are reaching out to me to thank me for speaking so openly about it.

"I've had many young people contact me already and one guy who has been a gambler for 40 years got in touch.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking."

In a bid to raise awareness of Gamtalk and fundraise for addiction and homelessness charities, Paul has been sleeping on the streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh since Monday this week.

Paul, who lives with mum Monica and dad Frankie, added: "I chose to do this after waking up in the middle of the night a few weeks ago and realising that it could actually have been me had I not stopped gambling when I did.

"If it wasn't for the support of my family and friends, I'd have ended up homeless.

"I received a donation of sleeping bags, jackets, gloves and scarves to give out and I've been so well supported."

To donate to Paul's fundraiser, visit bit.ly/3dakuRZ