University of SydneyFriday 11 May 2012, 1:35PM
Media release from University of Sydney
Many people talk of problem gambling as an 'addiction' but work
coming out of the University of Sydney's Gambling Treatment Clinic
suggests that this may not be the case.
"The idea of gambling addiction is widespread, but inaccurate,"
says the clinic's Education and Training Officer, Dr Fadi Anjoul,
who has treated problem gamblers for the past 15 years.
As Responsible Gambling Awareness Week (14th-20th May, 2012)
approaches, thoughts often turn to the best ways of helping problem
Dr Anjoul notes that problem gambling has been consistently grouped
with drug and alcohol addiction, but notes symptoms such as
tolerance or withdrawal, which are central features of addiction
are rarely seen in gamblers.
"Problem gambling is better thought of as a misguided obsession,"
Dr Anjoul states, "which means we are dealing with habitual and
poorly informed choices rather than biological processes that are
beyond individual control."
The difference has important implications for treatment. Poorly
informed choices and behaviours can be treated with what is known
as cognitive therapy, which helps people understand the story of
their gambling, of how they ended up where they are, and to change
how they think about their involvement with gambling.
Dr Anjoul has developed an innovative brand of cognitive therapy
that generally results in much better outcomes than traditional
therapies based on the disease or addiction model of
"Traditional therapies tend to focus on ways to help people deal
with their urges when they occur," notes Dr Anjoul, "and show high
rates of relapse after therapy ends. However, with the model we are
working with, we often find that by the end of treatment, people
are experiencing very few urges."
"The results we are getting so far at the Gambling Treatment Clinic
with the new cognitive therapy are extremely exciting," states
Professor Alex Blaszczynski, Head of the University's School of
Psychology and a world-renowned expert on problem gambling, who
hopes to assist Dr Anjoul with promoting training based on this new
"It is early days but at this point it appears we are seeing better
treatment outcomes and much lower relapse rates than have been
The Gambling Treatment Clinic, which is funded through the NSW
Government Responsible Gambling Fund, has locations at Parramatta,
Lidcombe, Campbelltown, as well as at Sydney University's main
campus in Camperdown.
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