Drink and Drugs News DDN December 2019 | Page 14

GAMBLING – THE PEOPLE Identifying gambling problems, links to other addictive behaviours, and when to refer to specialist treatment ON THE LOOKOUT L ike any other addiction, problem gambling doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone, from any background, and of any age. Men, however, are more likely to be classed as problem gamblers than women, and studies have also shown that people are more likely to develop a gambling disorder if they started gambling at a young age or have a family history of it. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 11 people can ‘lose control’ of their gambling for a variety of reasons. ‘You may gamble to forget about responsibilities; to feel better when you feel depressed or sad; to fill your time when bored (especially if not working); when you drink or use drugs; when you get angry with others – or yourself. Or, you may have started gambling early – some people start as young as seven or eight.’ TELL-TALE SIGNS Key indicators that someone is developing a gambling problem include overt signs such as spending more money or time gambling than they can afford, finding it hard to stop, or gambling until all their money is gone. Other behaviour can be similar to that associated with drug or drink problems – losing interest in other activities, neglecting work, school or family needs, and borrowing money, selling possessions, stealing or not paying bills. As with substance issues, many people will also become defensive or angry if questioned about their gambling behaviour, as well as experiencing anxiety, depression or guilt. Another characteristic in common with alcohol or drugs is the impact gambling can have on loved ones, including relationship breakdown and child neglect. The NHS website has a questionnaire for people who are concerned that they may have a problem, along with self-help advice and links to support services, 12 while the Gambling Commission is currently developing guidance for gambling operators on identifying customers who may be at risk and how to intervene. 13 The commission stresses that frontline health professionals and people working in agencies where problem or at-risk gamblers may present, such as Citizens Advice and debt advice centres, should be trained to identify them in order to refer on to appropriate support. Overall, however, despite the fact that people presenting with substance misuse or mental health issues are likely to also be vulnerable to gambling harm, awareness levels among wider health professionals have often been low and people have generally not been screened for gambling-related problems. You may gamble to forget about responsibilities; to feel better when you feel depressed or sad; to fill your time when bored; when you drink or use drugs; when you get angry with others – or yourself Do you have a gambling problem? Try this questionnaire you bet more than you can afford to • Do lose? you need to gamble with larger • Do amounts of money to get the same feeling? your gambling caused you any health • Has problems, including feelings of stress or anxiety? other people criticised your betting • Have or told you that you had a gambling problem (regardless of whether or not you • thought it was true)? Has your gambling caused any financial you borrowed money or sold • problems • Have anything to get money to gamble? for you or your household? you ever felt guilty about the way you you wondered whether you have a • Have • Have gamble or what happens when you gamble? problem with gambling? Have you tried to win back money you have lost (chasing losses)? 4 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • WIDER HEALTH SERIES Score 0 for each time you answer ‘never’ Score 1 for each time you answer ‘sometimes’ Score 2 for each time you answer ‘most of the time’ Score 3 for each time you answer ‘almost always’ If your total score is 8 or higher, you may be a problem gambler. Source: www.nhs.uk WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM