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Gambling Addiction & its Treatment

Submitted by on May 28, 2013 – 8:24 PM

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The growth of online gambling has brought about an increase in the number of problem gamblers worldwide. While gaming companies may try to downplay this increase, it is important to stay mindful of this growing issue and the help available for problem gamblers looking to break out the cycle of addiction.

Numbers Can Be Deceiving

If you read some studies, they will point to percentages and tell you that the “percentage of problem gamblers has not increased in the last decade.” If you look closer at these reports, they claim that the percentage of users has not increased in the last decade as internet gambling has grown.

While the percentage remains the same, that still does not mean the numbers have not risen dramatically. For example, 10 years ago it would be reasonable to assume that the largest online poker sites would have around 15,000 users maximum. If you factor conservatively and say that one percent of users are problem gamblers, that would have been around 150 players.

Fast forward 10 years and that same site now averages 150,000 users. At 1 percent, you are looking at 1,500 players that can be potential problem gamblers. And that would be taking numbers of just one online poker site. Consider that there are thousands of gaming sites online, and you see how this is a growing concern.

Not all About Money

Some problems gamblers get overlooked for the simple fact that they are financially solvent and can “afford to lose money.” One must remember that problem gambling is any type of compulsive gambling that has potentially negative consequences.

These consequences are not always financial. A 1990 study showed that compulsive gamblers are more likely to go through multiple divorces. Child abuse can also result in homes where one parent is a compulsive gambler. This can even lead to influences on a child’s development and their own attitudes towards gambling.

A 2010 study at an Australian hospital showed that 17% of suicidal patients were problem gamblers. According by the National Council on Problem Gambling, one in five problem gamblers has at least considered suicide.

Forms of Treatment

In most cases, problem gamblers need professional help in order to break the addiction. The most common form of treatment is group therapy, the most common being enrollment in Gamblers Anonymous. Similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12-step program uses group therapy to help the problem gambler break his addiction.

Some patients will require cognitive behavior therapy. This involves weekly sessions with a therapist who will help the problem gambler to retrain themselves how they think about and perceive gambling.

Some more severe cases my require medication. This can be due to one of two reasons. For some patients, gambling addiction can alter brain chemistry and may lead to bipolar disorder, depression, and ADD. In others, their addiction is actually a side effect of an underlying mental disorder. For these patients, mood stabilizers and anitdepressants can help them overcome their addictions.

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