Treatment for a gambling addiction is based on education and support. Both are essential to manage the condition, and management is the proper idea because problem gambling is a progressive, chronic illness. Those who are in treatment are said to be ‘in recovery’ or ‘abstinent’ instead of ‘cured’.
There are currently no specific medications that help with all cases of gambling addiction. Treatment is individualized and seeks to help with whatever underlying problem led to the behavior. Medications may be prescribed if there is a treatable psychological condition that increases the desire to gamble, but this will depend on what counseling uncovers.
Education about compulsive gambling
Part of the treatment for a gambling addiction will be learning about problem gambling in general. Compulsive gamblers share many traits and feelings. Explanations can illuminate the underlying realities and help addicts understand how their addiction ‘works’. A good treatment regimen will elicit an “Aha!” feeling in patients when they recognize, in themselves, the attributes and patterns they are shown.
Education is also important for family members and significant others. The more they know about the problem, the more empowered they are to help.
Along with learning generalities about the condition, patients are also taught useful techniques to combat their impulses to gamble. It is a mistake to think that simple will power is enough. Techniques range from strict abstinence and avoiding trigger situations to seeking support at critical junctures.
Gambling Addiction Support Groups
Gamblers Anonymous holds meetings where gamblers can share their experiences and develop a network of caring support. There is a great power in talking to others who know, intimately, what the addiction is like.
SupportGroups.com is for problem gamblers and those who care about them. It provides a confidential, supportive environment for those who want to connect around the issue of a gambling addiction. Members (membership is free) share personal experiences, evaluate information and discuss illness, treatment and recovery.
The gaming industry also provides support for problem gamblers who can add themselves to ‘exclusion lists’ and there is even software that will block access to online gambling sites. Pressure from community groups and legislatures have made casinos and other legal gambling franchises a surprisingly valuable resource. They recognize that their businesses are hurt by the fallout from gambling addiction and will provide information to those seeking help.
If you aren’t sure
By the time a gambling addiction becomes obvious, it may be too late to stop the damage. It is possible to seek help before a divorce, arrest, bankruptcy or suicide. If you or someone you care about may be a problem gambler, get an evaluation. The embarrassment and cost is minor compared to letting the problem continue.
photo by Mary Helen McNally