Can Gambling Addiction Be Cured?

May 31, 2023

Key Points:

  • Gambling addiction, while not curable, can be effectively treated through various methods.

  • An estimated 2 million adults suffer from severe gambling problems, with several million more affected to different extents.

  • Treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and support groups like Gamblers Anonymous offer significant support.

  • Emerging possibilities include smartphone apps and potential medications, though in early trial phases.

  • Managing gambling addiction is a lifelong journey, involving ongoing treatment, and a commitment to change, similar to managing chronic conditions like diabetes.

Reviewed by Eric Patterson, LPC

Anyone who has a gambling addiction or knows someone with a gambling addiction wants to know if it can be cured. In short, no. Addiction experts don’t usually speak in terms of “curing” a condition. However, there's no need to worry because while gambling addiction cannot be cured, it can be treated. Gambling disorder, also known as compulsive gambling, refers to the persistent urge to gamble despite the negative impact it has on one's life. It is a pervasive disease that has significant and long-lasting consequences for individuals. Currently, an estimated 2 million adults suffer from severe gambling problems, while 4-6 million Americans have a mild or moderate gambling problem

Fortunately, there is hope for those struggling with compulsive gambling, as there are various treatment options available. While these treatments may not offer a cure, they can provide relief from the grips of a gambling disorder. Treatment options range from therapy with licensed clinicians and providers to advancements in pharmaceuticals that may one day assist in addressing gambling-related issues.

Can addiction be cured?

Gambling addiction, like many other addictions, cannot be cured.  And while gambling addiction cannot be cured, it can be effectively treated. Just like chronic illnesses such as Lupus, hypertension, or diabetes, gambling addiction requires ongoing attention and treatment. It is a lifelong journey that individuals must actively engage in to maintain a healthy, gambling-free life. Along the way, there may be setbacks or other challenges, but treatment is a continuous effort that is well worth it.

It is essential to approach gambling addiction as a chronic condition that requires ongoing management. By seeking appropriate treatment, individuals with gambling addiction can find the necessary support and tools to overcome their struggles and maintain a fulfilling and balanced life.

Effective Treatments for Overcoming Gambling Addiction

When it comes to finding effective treatment for gambling addiction, several options are available. However, the most successful treatment modalities often require the assistance of professionals. It is important to note that in some cases, gambling addiction co-occurs with other mental disorders, such as PTSD or Bipolar Disorder. In such instances, it is crucial to address both disorders with the help of a mental health professional in a comprehensive way.

Here are some popular and effective treatment approaches:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

CBT is a widely utilized therapeutic approach for treating gambling addiction. It aims to identify and modify distorted thinking patterns and irrational beliefs associated with gambling. Through CBT, individuals learn coping skills, problem-solving techniques, and strategies for preventing relapse. Studies have demonstrated that CBT can significantly reduce gambling behavior and improve psychological well-being.

Motivational Interviewing (MI):

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is another effective therapy used in the treatment of gambling addiction. MI is a client-centered approach that focuses on resolving ambivalence and enhancing intrinsic motivation to change. It involves collaborative discussions aimed at exploring the individual's values, goals, and aspirations. MI has demonstrated positive outcomes in reducing gambling frequency and severity.

These options both require an educated and experienced licensed professional to achieve full efficacy. When engaging in either CBT or MI it is best to find a provider that is familiar with an individual’s specific scenario. Building trust with a therapist can take time and is essential to the healing process

Apps

In the digital age, there are several apps available for smartphones designed to help manage addictions. One such app is Addiction Avert. The app's goal is to provide accessible relapse prevention tools whenever needed. While it is important to note that these apps do not replace the expertise of licensed professionals, they offer a new option worth considering.

Medications to Treat Gambling Addiction

While many diseases have medications that help alleviate symptoms, gambling addiction does not currently have any drugs recognized by the FDA for its treatment. However, certain medications have shown favorable outcomes in reducing compulsive gambling.

For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like fluvoxamine have been found to reduce gambling urges. Naltrexone, an opioid receptor antagonist, has also demonstrated some efficacy. Additionally, other drugs such as Escitalopram, Lithium, Nalmefene, Valproate, Topiramate, and Paroxetine show promise in assisting individuals with gambling-related issues. Although these studies are still in early trials, there is hope that a drug will eventually be developed and utilized for the treatment of gambling problems.

Support Groups

For those who have made the initial step along the road to recovery with professional addiction treatment, there are support groups. The most well known of these is Gamblers Anonymous (GA). Gamblers Anonymous, like many recovery groups, focuses on the 12- step model. Their only requirement is a desire to stop gambling. Many participants engage a sponsor to help them work through the steps. Meetings are held virtually and throughout the country and around the world everyday of the week. Members can find comfort in surrounding themselves with individuals who are undergoing the same struggles that they are.  

Relapse

The sad truth is on the path to recovery there will often be some stumbles. One estimate suggests that about 90% of problem gamblers will relapse. While this number is high, it should not discourage those who need help. Relapse is a part of the recovery process. A slip up does not undo the work towards a gambling free life that has previously happened. It only signifies a need for refocused treatment.

Seeking Treatment

While gambling addiction cannot be cured, there are many treatment options available to help individuals live a life free of problem gambling. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI) have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing gambling behavior and promoting psychological well-being. Medications may one day directly aid in the treatment of gambling disorder, as well. 

It is important to recognize that gambling addiction is a chronic condition, and long-term management is often required to prevent relapse. The most important part in treating gambling addiction is an individual's desire to stop gambling.

References:








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