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High Stakes Friday, 26 January, 2001, 12:18 GMT
High Stakes: Problem gambling
High Stakes: Problem gambling

In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association first recognised pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder. Since then, the search for a 'cure' has started in earnest.

Previously there had been a number of treatments available to the few gamblers who actually recognised and sought help for their addiction.

Gamblers Anonymous which, like its sister project Alcoholics Anonymous, is a 12 step programme involving individual abstinence reinforced by group discussion and support.

Since the advent of the National Lottery calls to Gamblers Anonymous have increased by 17%.

Counselling

The charity Gamcare have a success rate of 53% with their group counselling sessions.

Due to their encouragement of follow-up sessions, they can claim a 46% success rate six months after the initial counselling course is finished.

In 2000 the amount of counselling delivered was up 112% on the 1999 figure.

Other forms of psycho-therapeutic treatments are also finding some success. They include residential treatment centres such as Gordon House in Beckenham.

In the US there are several centres including Algamus on Santa Ana Island in Florida. Here they offer an intensive therapy and also medium term accommodation for recovering addicts.

 Click here to watch recovering gamblers and their families at Algamus talk about their experiences.

Aversion Therapy

Modern medicine is looking into controlling the urge to gamble with a daily tablet. There are several on trial at the moment and initial indicators look promising.

In the past, one of the most controversial treatments was Aversion Therapy which could take several forms.

Electric Shock Therapy involved attaching electrodes to a patient's wrist. They would then be shown images of gambling related activities for example or would be read the horse racing results.

While this was in progress, the doctor would administer electric shocks which aimed to make a subconscious connection in the patient's mind between gambling and discomfort. Experts now feel that this was not a successful form of treatment.

Shock treatments

There was also a treatment that involved a fruit machine designed to give off electric shocks when played.

Another form of Aversion Therapy which was tested involved injecting the patient with a drug that would induce vomiting while they played a fruit machine. A bucket would be placed next to the machine.

Yet another technique was to place the gambler in a room that was completely filled with gambling paraphernalia that would be tailored to their specific interest.

Televisions would show race after race, the walls would be plastered with pictures of horses and the nurse would come round and take their 'bets'. The idea was that they would reach saturation point. Again this enjoyed little success.


Internet Links:

Gamblers Anonymous Official Website

Gamcare

National Council on Problem Gambling (US)

Links to more High Stakes stories are at the foot of the page.


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