August 22nd, 2014

A Safe Bet: More Treatment Needed In Maryland For Gambling Addiction

The casinos are coming! The casinos are coming! With Maryland Live having opened in 2012, the Horseshoe Casino set to open in downtown Baltimore on August 26th and the National Harbor Casino slated to begin operations next year, this could well become the rallying cry among addiction treatment professionals. If the experience in other states is a guide, the increased presence of casinos is going to lead to more people who live near them having problems with gambling.

There is already considerable interest in the clinical community about the treatment side of this issue as evidenced by the more than 500 attendees who gathered at the 2nd Annual Maryland Conference on Problem Gambling in June. The event was sponsored by the Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling located at the University of Maryland, School of Medicine.

I attended the conference and found it to be very informative about problems with gambling. Knowledgeable presenters described ways in which gambling addiction is very similar to substance use disorders. For example, at its most severe, gambling can become a central preoccupation in the person’s life.  Abstaining completely is a much more successful strategy than cutting back. Combining professional treatment with participation in a community support program such as Gamblers Anonymous increases the likelihood of successful recovery.

There has been increasing research evidence that gambling is a true addiction like substance abuse disorders. This was the basis of the decision by the American Psychiatric Association to move the gambling from the Impulse Disorders to the Addictive Disorders chapter of the 2013 edition of their definitive diagnostic manual DSM-5. Successful treatment models, however, are rare, and full acceptance by the professional treatment and recovery communities is only slowly evolving.

Approximately 70 percent of problem gamblers have a substance use disorder, so at Kolmac we are beginning to screen more carefully for the presence of this problem among our patients. In addition, we have made the decision to admit patients who have gambling addictions but no substance use disorder. The willingness of insurance companies to support this decision has been encouraging.

Contact us to learn more about treating problems with gambling.

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