Gamblers Anonymous More Effective Paired with Therapy

Gambling chips sitting on green felt tablePeople with a gambling addiction who attended Gamblers Anonymous (GA) meetings gambled less frequently than peers who avoided the 12-step program, according to a new study published in the Journal of Gambling Studies. When GA treatment was combined with other therapies, people with a gambling addiction made even better progress.

Gambling addiction is among the most common behavioral addictions, affecting 3% to 6% of the population. People who compulsively gamble can quickly accrue hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, spurring a cycle of gambling to regain the money. These effects can be destructive and can create a deadly habit with a high suicide rate. The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates 1 in 5 people with a gambling habit will attempt suicide.

Is Gamblers Anonymous Effective?

The study reviewed 17 other studies on problem gambling published between 2002 and 2015. The studies looked at a range of treatment approaches, including Gamblers Anonymous.

The review showed people who regularly attended Gamblers Anonymous meetings gambled less frequently. They also experienced less depression, stress, sleep deprivation, and anxiety, and higher levels of life satisfaction. The program’s focus on patience, acceptance of financial realities, and identity as a problem gambler all played important roles in recovery.

The program was even more effective when combined with psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy, which attempts to alter problematic or misleading thoughts to change behavior, proved especially effective.

Gender Differences in Gambling Recovery

Though media portrayals of problem gamblers suggest most people with a gambling addiction are men, the National Council on Problem Gambling suggests the gender gap is narrowing. Data shows women make up the majority of gamblers ages 45-64.

The study looked at how gender affected experiences with Gamblers Anonymous. Though women initially experienced similar benefits to men, the review suggests women may use the program differently. Rather than only attending meetings, women participants are more likely to use GA as a tool for creating informal social networks with other women.

Even though the study confirmed the benefits of Gamblers Anonymous, the authors say their research highlights the need for more research into effective treatments for problem gambling.

References:

  1. Gamblers Anonymous associated with progress, could benefit from more combined approach. (2016, April 5). Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-04/smh-gaa040416.php
  2. National Problem Gambling Awareness Week female gamblers fact sheet[PDF]. (n.d.). Washington, D.C.: National Council on Problem Gambling.
  3. Schuler, A., Ferentzy, P., Turner, N. E., Skinner, W., Mcisaac, K. E., Ziegler, C. P., & Matheson, F. I. (2016). Gamblers Anonymous as a recovery pathway: A scoping review. Journal of Gambling Studies. doi:10.1007/s10899-016-9596-8
  4. Wright, C. (2012, September 13). How gambling can kill you faster than drug abuse or alcoholism. Retrieved from http://www.alternet.org/how-gambling-can-kill-you-faster-drug-abuse-or-alcoholism

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  • liza Q

    liza Q

    April 7th, 2016 at 5:10 PM

    Would you say that this is also likely true of the other 12 step programs, like AA, that it would be more effective when combined with therapy?

  • Lynne

    Lynne

    April 8th, 2016 at 7:57 AM

    Thankfully, have never had anyone in my life who I know of who has personally struggled with a gambling addiction, but what I understand is that these addictions can be just as powerful as those from chemical substances. I guess when they are gambling they get the same kind of high from that as would a drug addict or alcoholic.

  • benji

    benji

    April 8th, 2016 at 10:24 AM

    It would be pretty nice if there were counselors available at all meetings, you know because a lot of people might utilize the services if they were a part of or in some way connected to a meeting time but there is no way that they may seek this out on their own. Or that would have the resources to do it.

  • Macey

    Macey

    April 9th, 2016 at 12:38 PM

    Do you think that everyone who has this problem will somehow benefit from a 12 step program or is this something that only works well for certain people>

  • Kristianna

    Kristianna

    April 9th, 2016 at 4:47 PM

    I grew up with a gambling addict for a father and it is hard to even look back on that now and say that there would be anything that would have stopped his behavior.

    We lost everything as a result of his actions and still there was never an apology, no remorse, and I will hold this against him for as long as I live. He is an idiot to have basically no clue as to how much damage he did to all of us with his dumb choices.

    So irresponsible, it is still hard for me to even talk about it without getting angry all over again.

  • Cayden

    Cayden

    April 11th, 2016 at 3:54 PM

    Yes! Because it is always nice to have that one person in your life who is a rock for you, who is consistent, and who will be there for you even at your worst moments.

  • Brad

    Brad

    April 12th, 2016 at 2:31 PM

    I know a number of people who have had great success via AA so I would assume that GA would be no different. But I have read somewhere I think that there is something about being addicted to gambling that could make it even more difficult to free oneself from. Any thoughts on that or is this just some myth?

  • Webninja84

    Webninja84

    November 5th, 2016 at 5:25 AM

    I have struggled in the past and found the best remedy to be getting it all out in the open, it gives you a sense of power over the addiction, I think you have to persevere with it though and continue to talk about it or else it could sneak back into your life. You can get a good account of it in Down the Slot which is available on Amazon.

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