Is control a viable goal in the treatment of pathological gambling?


According to a report of National Gambling Impact Study Commission {(National} Gambling Impact Study Commission (1999). Final report. Washington, {DC:} Government Printing Office.), 97% of problem gamblers in the United States do not seek treatment. Within the small proportion of problem gamblers who enter into treatment, a high percentage drops out. Despite the fact that some researchers argue against abstinence as the only acceptable treatment goal and that regaining control over gambling behaviour appears to be possible for some pathological gamblers {(PG)}, abstinence has been the only gambling intervention treatment goal. The primary goal of this study was to verify whether controlled gambling is a viable goal for pathological gamblers. The second goal was to identify the characteristics that predicted a successful outcome for treatment with a controlled gambling goal. Eighty-nine {PGs} were enrolled in cognitive-behavioural treatment aimed at controlled gambling. Six and twelve month follow-ups were conducted in order to evaluate the maintenance of therapeutic gains and to identify significant predictors of successful controlled gambling. Results showed that using the intent-to-treat procedure, 63% had a score of 4 or less on the {DSM-IV} at the end of treatment. That proportion was 56% and 51% at the 6- and 12-month follow-ups. If we retain only those who completed the treatment, these proportions increased to 92%, 80% and 71% at post-treatment, 6- and 12-month follow-ups, respectively. On the majority of the measures, significant improvements were found at post-treatment and the therapeutic gains were maintained at the 6- and 12-month follow-ups. However, few variables were identified to predict who would benefit from control rather than abstinence. The clinical and philosophical implications of these results are discussed in this paper.

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