Gambling addiction and its treatment within the NHS: A guide for healthcare professionals

Abstract

At the BMA's 2006 annual representative meeting a resolution on gambling addiction and its treatment in the NHS was referred to the Board of Science. In addressing this resolution, the Board of Science decided to undertake a review of what treatment services are available in the United Kingdom (UK) for problem gamblers and who provides them, and establish what (if any) treatment and prevention services are available on the NHS for gambling addiction. Gambling is a popular activity and while most people gamble for fun and pleasure, gambling brings with it inherent risks of personal and social harm. Problem gambling can negatively affect significant areas of a person's life, including their physical and mental health, employment, finances and interpersonal relationships (eg family members, financial dependents). There are also significant co-morbidities with problem gambling, including depression, alcoholism, and obsessive-compulsive behaviours. Currently, there are almost no treatment services for problem gambling available on the NHS, and advice and support for people with gambling problems must be sought from the many private and charitable organisations throughout the UK. The implementation of the Gambling Act 2005 is likely to have a major impact on gambling in the UK in terms of changing patterns of gambling and hence rates of problem gambling. This report aims to raise awareness of problem gambling in the UK and provides recommendations on how the problem can be addressed. After examining the nature of gambling addiction in the UK, the report reviews the accessibility and availability of gambling addiction services, with the aim of raising awareness among general practitioners (GPs) and other healthcare workers of these services and other relevant treatments. The impact of the Gambling Act 2005 and the problems associated with internet and remote gambling is also considered. The report concludes with a series of recommendations aimed at healthcare professionals, policy makers and service providers. It also provides summary information on the Gambling Act 2005 and contact details for the private and charitable organisations in the UK that provide advice and support for people with gambling problems.

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