March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month: Have the Conversation

Submitted by: 03/03/2016 by Maureen Fitzgerald

The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) sponsors Problem Gambling Awareness Month each year to increase awareness of problem gambling.  As Keith Whyte, NCPG Executive Director wrote in his 2014 post, “Minimizing March Madness”, on the ATTC/NIATx Service Improvement blog:

“Adult problem gamblers are five times more likely to have co-occurring alcohol dependence, four times more likely to abuse drugs, three times more likely to be depressed, eight times more likely to have bipolar disorder, three times more likely to experience an anxiety disorder and have significantly elevated rates of tachycardia, angina, cirrhosis. High-risk groups include veterans and individuals with disabilities.”

Yet problem gambling often gets overlooked in substance use disorder treatment settings, as Dr. Lori Rugle described in “You Don’t Have a Gambling Problem, Do You?”

 “What happens so often in clinical practice is that a counselor will ask a Yes/No question such as ‘You don't have a gambling problem, do you?’” says Dr. Rugle. “Counselors and doctors are wary of asking questions about an area they’re unsure about,” she says. “With training on the right techniques and how to ask the right questions, clinicians can overcome their lack of confidence about exploring their patients’ gambling behaviors.”

Dr. Rugle also offers a tool for Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) that clinicians can to get the conversation started. Read all about it in this month’s feature article in the ATTC Messenger.

The “Have the Conversation” theme echoes the thoughts that Bill LaBine, Executive Director of the Jackie Nitschke Center, shared in his blog post, “Problem Gambling, Let’s Bring the Problem Out of Hiding.”  Bill writes:

“I challenge all addiction treatment professionals to talk about National Problem Gambling Awareness Month with your clients and explore just how devastating their gambling activities might be. Let’s bring the problem out of hiding.”

Free online self-paced course on problem gambling disorder now available

You can find out more about problem gambling disorder and earn Continuing Education credits through a free new course available on HealtheKnowledge, the ATTC Network’s online learning portal.  The course, titled “Problem Gambling Disorder,” includes a series of recorded webinars presented by national gambling experts.   

Does your treatment agency screen clients for problem gambling disorder? Share your story with the NIATx E-news: email

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