GAMBLING – THE PEOPLE
Identifying gambling problems,
links to other addictive
behaviours, and when to
refer to specialist treatment
ON THE LOOKOUT
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.’
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
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
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
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 –
Do you have a gambling problem? Try this questionnaire
you bet more than you can afford to
you need to gamble with larger
amounts of money to get the same
your gambling caused you any health
problems, including feelings of stress or
other people criticised your betting
or told you that you had a gambling
problem (regardless of whether or not you
thought it was true)?
your gambling caused any financial
you borrowed money or sold
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
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
Score 3 for each time you answer ‘almost
If your total score is 8 or higher, you may be
a problem gambler.