Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value on the outcome of an event. The stakes are high and the prize is uncertain, so a gambler needs to consider the prize and risk before making their decision. However, there is no reason to lose all hope – there are treatments available to help people suffering from pathological gambling.
Pathological gambling is an addiction to gambling that causes an individual to lose control over money and time. While this addiction may be hard to identify, its severity is based on a variety of factors. Historically, pathological gambling has been classified as a type of substance use disorder. Among the criteria for pathological gambling are an obsession with gambling, increased gambling than intended, withdrawal symptoms when unable to gamble, and disruptions in important social and occupational pursuits. In addition, people with this condition continue to gamble despite growing personal losses.
There are various models that are used to understand pathological gambling. Some of these models are empirically supported, while others are not. Some of the models discussed include general theory of addiction, reward deficiency syndrome, and biogenetics. Chapter four explores the medical and biological explanations.
Pathological gambling in adults
Various behavioural interventions have been developed to treat pathological gambling in adults. These include serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) that block the serotonin transporter and increase serotonin synaptic availability. These treatments have varied degrees of success in treating pathological gambling. One of the most commonly used SRI, clomipramine, produced a 90% improvement in gambling symptoms in one double-blind placebo-controlled trial. The study involved one female subject who was treated with the drug over seven weeks.
The prevalence of pathological gambling among adults has been estimated at 1.6 percent in a meta-analysis of 119 studies. The prevalence of pathological gambling was also estimated using national surveys on addictive behavior. A 2008 survey included 7,500 men and women who were older than 20 years. Participants were defined as pathological gamblers if they scored five or more on the South Oaks Gambling Screen. A follow-up survey was conducted in 2013 to further assess the prevalence of pathological gambling in adults.
Pathological gambling in adolescents
There are several risk factors associated with pathological gambling in adolescents. These include peer group, substance abuse, and family issues. Children of pathological gamblers are also at an increased risk for depression and behavioural problems. Pathological gambling also has substantial costs, including various health care costs. It is important to identify risk factors and address them if they are present.
Pathological gambling affects between four and eight percent of adolescents. The prevalence is two to four times higher than among adults. Adolescent pathological gamblers usually begin their problem behaviors around the age of 10 or twelve years. The majority of pathological gamblers also exhibit comorbidity. There is currently no approved pharmacological treatment for pathological gambling, but research continues to advance our understanding of this disorder.
Treatment for pathological gambling
Treatment for pathological gambling is a complex dynamic process that begins with the identification of gambling as a destructive agent. Pathological gamblers often seek professional help when the negative consequences of their behavior become too much to bear. They may undergo periods of abstinence from gambling before relapsing.
The methods employed to treat pathological gambling are very similar to those used to treat other addictions and disorders. However, there is a lack of consistent research on how to match treatments to clients. Also, many published studies involve a small number of clients, which can make conclusions about treatment effectiveness difficult.