Odds Are Increasing that Someone You Know Will Develop a Gambling Problem

The number of people reporting gambling problems is increasing, according to a new paper. Dr. David Hodgins, psychologist and head of the University of Calgary’s Addictive Behaviours Laboratory, says that the availability of gambling venues, online gambling in particular, is causing more people to become addicted to gambling. Previous data shows that gambling problems are often found in people with other psychological and mood issues. “Most of our progress in recognizing and understanding gambling disorders has been made in the past 25 years,” says Hodgins. “Our knowledge continues to evolve in parallel with a burgeoning availability of gambling opportunities. Internet gambling, for example, is providing around-the-clock home access to several types of gambling activities to an increasing number of people around the world.”

Currently, the number of people with a gambling problem ranges from one percent to as high as five percent worldwide. People with gambling addictions are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and are more than four times likely to also have mood issues. Existing research has shown that many factors may contribute to the development of a gambling addiction, including genetic, environmental and biological. Additionally, children who witnessed a parent struggle with gambling addiction are more likely to develop a similar problem.

Only one percent of gamblers get help for their problem and most often receive cognitive behavioral therapy. Although this form of treatment is relatively successful, with over 50 percent of clients overcoming their addiction, there are very few alternatives. With few other treatment options, and no medications approved for this issue, Dr. Hodgins hopes this new information will change the type and scope of treatment available for this issue. “While substantial progress has already been made, the increased visibility and awareness into gambling disorders is likely to encourage more innovative research in the field and hopefully better treatment,” says Hodgins.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Toby


    May 25th, 2011 at 2:31 AM

    My friend is literally addicted to all the poker games. Although this involves no money, I always thought it’s not a great thing. And now my fears seem to be coming true. He is contemplating joining the ranks of real gambling with money. A worrying thing indeed, considering he’s still a teenager.

    Is there any way I can convince him not to go ahead?

  • James


    May 25th, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    While you can’t really talk someone out of an addictive behavior, you may be able to help highlight some reasons and concerns as to why you think it would be potentially damaging; this would be better approached by a professional with experience in process addictions and Motivational Interviewing though.

    Just because someone gambles occasionally does not mean they have a gambling addiction. It would have to be impairing their life in some manner. Playing poker without any monetary gain or opportunity of loss would be more reminiscent of someone dealing with isolation and possibly addictive gaming.

    This is all speculation, and without seeing the person it is hard to tell; there are too many potential factors involved. Just be there as a support for him right now; you aren’t going to make him do anything he doesn’t want to do… The best thing you can do for yourself is to accept this as fact.

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