Magazine article Addiction Professional

Bringing Gambling Problems to Light

Magazine article Addiction Professional

Bringing Gambling Problems to Light

Article excerpt

As the casino boats were coining into its immediate area in 1993, the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery was beginning to treat compulsive gambling. Coleen Moore, Marketing and Admissions Manager at the treatment organization, remembers when it began.

She explains, "What we were finding was that many of our clients who were in treatment for alcoholism, were coming back to us and saying, 'Okay, I'm not drinking. But I'm going to the boat and I'm gambling. And I feel like I'm not in recovery.

After these comments, Moore says the staff really began to grasp the mechanics of gambling as an addiction. They found that although there are some differences, the behaviors of a person with gambling issues look very similar to the experiences of someone suffering from alcoholism.

'A hidden addiction'

Soon after, the organization got connected with the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS), and have been implementing the screening tool for all of its clients--whether or not they say they're presenting with compulsive gambling--ever since.

Moore believes it's important to screen all clients that walk through the door because "it's a hidden addiction." Unlike a drug or alcohol addiction, "people don't really see it. We can't smell it or detect it with a urine screen or anything like that," she says.

Moore says because gambling problems can often be presented in other fashions such as depression, anxiety or some kind of panic attack or panic disorder, the clinician may be taking a completely different path with the client. She says screening is also crucial because of the statistics on gambling prevalence and the accessibility for people to be able to gamble.

It's also difficult because this addiction is one that is seen as "socially acceptable; according to Moore. Although there is an age restriction on gambling, she says that parents and grandparents providing scratch-off lottery tickets to their young ones for Christmas or other celebrations doesn't help to show that gambling could turn into an problem.

"It's hard for not only the society to see this as an issue, but it's also sometimes hard for clinicians to see this as an issue as well. And most people don't talk about it when they're coming into therapy, unless they see that it is one of the presenting problems," says Moore. Hence, questions must be asked.

Quantity does not matter

She explains that although she utilizes SOGS, it isn't necessary to use a lengthy screening tool. Some screening tools, such as the Lie/Bet Questionnaire (see below), ask only two questions. Based on the client's responses, the clinician can then perform a further evaluation to determine whether or not there's a diagnosis there.

Moore says that she tends to encourage clinicians to use the Lie/Bet Questionnaire, especially if they don't already have protocols to test for gambling implemented in their initial assessment of a client.

"The person might be very ashamed, guilty about their gambling behavior and they don't want to talk about it. …

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