Whether it’s a flutter on the lottery, betting on the horses, sports events or the pokies, most people gamble at some point in their lives. But if gambling becomes an obsession and disrupts personal and family life, it may be time to seek help. The new guidelines call for more effective treatment for problem gambling and are based on the growing evidence that some forms of addiction are biologically rooted.
The decision to gamble involves an underlying psychological or neurological problem that can be treated with cognitive-behaviour therapy, which helps individuals resist unwanted thoughts and behaviours. Gambling addicts can learn to confront their irrational beliefs, for instance that a string of losses signifies an imminent win (or that “lucky” two out of three cherries on a slot machine are a sign of good luck). Medications to treat co-occurring psychiatric disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, may also be beneficial.
Another strategy for addressing problem gambling is to reduce the availability of gambling opportunities by removing credit cards, closing online betting accounts and keeping only small amounts of cash on hand. It is also helpful to find alternative social activities that are not centered around gambling, such as taking up a hobby or finding other ways to have fun without spending money.
A final way to prevent gambling problems is to set and stick to bankroll limits. Gambling should only be done with money that you are prepared to lose, and it is important to remember that gambling is not a legitimate way to make money. It is also important to never chase your losses, as this will usually lead to bigger and more frequent losses.
In addition to professional therapy, there are a number of support groups available for problem gamblers and their loved ones. Individuals with a gambling problem are encouraged to seek out peer support, as it can be comforting to know that they are not alone in their struggle. It can also be useful to talk with a trained counsellor, who can provide support and practical advice, such as how to structure a budget that includes gambling expenses.
The decision to recognise gambling as an addictive behaviour and introduce more effective treatments is a landmark moment in the field of addiction science. It will have a major impact on how people receive help for gambling disorders, and is based on growing evidence that some forms of addiction are biologically grounded. For example, researchers have found that gambling triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of excitement and reward. This is a similar response to how drugs like cocaine or heroin stimulate the brain. For this reason, experts believe that some people with an addiction to gambling have the same medical needs as those with a drug or alcohol dependency. However, more research is needed to understand the causes of problematic gambling and how it can be effectively treated. It is also essential that governments and gambling companies work together to implement responsible gaming initiatives, which will help keep gambling fun for everyone.