CNWL appeals for greater funding for gambling addiction

29 April 2016

Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, said: "The recent suicide of a young pathological gambler highlights the need for society to take problem gambling and its possible high-risk consequences seriously.

"Pathological gambling is a mental disorder affecting over 450,000 adults in Britain and yet current services, including our own, are funded almost exclusively by the gambling industry, are under-developed, and are geographically ‘patchy’ or simply non-existent.

"Sad stories like that of this young man are thankfully rare, but suicidal ideation and suicidal intent are frequently present in people who have reached the severe end of the disease.

"Patients with pathological gambling problems tell us about the debilitating effects it has had on themselves, their families and carers.

"They find themselves deep in debt, depression and anxiety and most importantly, marginalisation from the fundamental support structures our society relies on such as family, friends and work. This is because gamblers tend to isolate themselves from their loved ones because of the illness.  

"What our research has shown us is that pathological gamblers have the same type of blunted endogenous opioid release in the brain as some models of alcoholism meaning it is an addiction.

"We therefore think the Government should recognise this as a major public health issue and put in place the correct measures to prevent further suicides. 

"We also believe that people experiencing gambling problems should have the same access to treatment as those with alcohol and drug addictions. Once it is recognised as such, treatment could potentially begin to be provided from England’s existing network of community drug and alcohol services.

"Currently, the National Problem Gambling Clinic remains the only dedicated NHS service of its kind in the UK.

"Our service, funded by the Responsible Gambling Trust, provides an evidence-based package of treatment for problem gamblers that include debt management and family therapy alongside individual support such as motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and have trialled the use of the drug Naltrexone – generally used to treat problem drinkers - but there is no quick fix.

"We receive over 700 referrals a year and have successfully provided treatment to thousands of problem gamblers.

"With greater funding we could help more people, save lives and prevent more unnecessary deaths.

"We are committed to trying all possible treatments to preserve the wellbeing of patients and their families."