Benefits of treatment for problem gamblers

When a person enters treatment for addiction, it is not uncommon to uncover outstanding legal issues; 65% of problem gamblers report being involved in illegal activities ranging from check forgery to embezzlement and robbery.[i] In a study of GA members, 80% reported committing civil crimes.[ii] Likewise, when a person presents with legal problems in another setting, addiction may be playing a key role. For instance, if someone is gainfully employed but is always borrowing money, that person may be using the money for gambling, alcohol, drugs or debts incurred as a result of addictive behavior.

Recognizing that a loved one, client or patient may have a gambling problem is often the beginning of the treatment process. Pathological gambling is a progressive addiction where someone:  becomes increasingly preoccupied with gambling; needs to bet more money more often; feels restless or irritable when not chasing losses; continues gambling although it is causing serious consequences. All addictions cause distress and constant disruption in an addict’s life. Compulsive gamblers are significantly more likely to have suicidal ideations and to make suicide attempts than those with other addictions. About 15% of problem gamblers report a significant suicide attempt.[iii]

A compulsive gambler experiences denial and often loses track or minimizes the amount of money he or she has lost. Here is a true story:

I thought I’d stolen about $10,000 from my father’s business. One day I decided to look at the books and see just how much damage I’d done. In actuality, I had taken over $70,000. I was in shock. My heart started racing, and then felt like it was about to fly out of my chest. Convinced I was having a heart attack, I went to the emergency room. The attending physician checked all my vital signs, smiled, and assured me that my heart was fine. I was, however, having a full blown panic attack. Because I was otherwise healthy, nobody ever asked me if there was something going on in my life that could have contributed to this.

Experts at Williamsville Wellness are well-positioned to prepare presentencing paperwork or negotiate with State Attorneys to reduce a charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. Our staff works with all court systems and with probation authorities during presentencing investigations when someone is awaiting a federal trial. Arranging for repayment to victims and coordinating payment plans with the IRS are seen as cooperative measures that benefit all parties. The state saves money when restitution is made and treatment is ordered in lieu of jail time; many judges prefer to offer rehab as opposed to punishment.

Providing this level of assistance helps the addict in a number of ways. First and foremost, studies have shown that people who successfully complete treatment are far less likely to reoffend. As a byproduct, courts look favorably on those who are aggressively addressing their problem. This is better for the addict, saves time and money, and is ultimately better for society as a whole.

[i] Galski, T. (1987). Handbook of Pathological Gambling. Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas, Publisher.

[ii] Maryland Department of Public Health. (1990). Final Report: Task force on Gambling Addiction in Maryland.

[iii] Ciarrocchi, J. (2001). Conclusions. Counseling Problem Gamblers: A Self-Regulation Manual for Individual and Family Therapy (Practical Resources for the Mental Health Professional) (p 23). Durham, NC: Academic Press.


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