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Treatments for Compulsive Gambling

If you have a gambling problem, call the Gambling State Hotline or Gamblers Anonymous Hotline and enlist the support of others who have the same problem. This is paramount.

Many compulsive gamblers go through terrifying experiences before they are ready for help. The compulsive gambler needs to be willing to accept the fact that he has lost control over gambling and have a sincere desire to get well.

Be honest with family members. Tell them the truth because secrets will eventually come out. Enlist the support of family, friends and religious groups. Also, stop gambling; recovery from this illness is impossible if you are actively engaged in gambling.

Treatment Options

Initial treatment necessitates the involvement of people with expertise in the treatment of compulsive gambling. Most counselors in this area will certainly recommend involvement with Gamblers Anonymous.

Your doctor will assess the nature of your gambling problem as well as other potential related psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse or other addictive disorders, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which may affect your efforts at recovery. He may prescribe medications to treat these disorders in addition to addressing your gambling problem.

Treatment in a Clinical Dependency Center

Gambling is part of the addictive illness spectrum and, just as we evaluate and treat alcoholics for their cigarette smoking and eating disorders, we should evaluate them for gambling. Due to the high rates of dual addictions, the following is recommended:

  • All patients should be screened for gambling problems.
  • Assess risk in substance-dependent patients who are not compulsive gamblers (more in patients with a family history of gambling problems, patients with intense interest in sports and betting lines).
  • Treat both disorders simultaneously.
  • Educate all patients regarding gambling addiction and switching addiction.
  • Do not allow gambling in treatment centers.

Patients treated for opiate dependence with methadone may be at special risk for gambling. Recent survey data has shown that pathological gamblers taking methadone are most likely to use heroin and alcohol are the substances just prior to or while gambling. Marijuana and cocaine were the substances next most likely to be used when gambling. Methadone programs that aim to prevent all illicit drug use have reported gambling associated with relapse.

Treatments for Compulsive Gambling

Scott Teitelbaum, MD

APA Reference
Teitelbaum, S. (2020). Treatments for Compulsive Gambling. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.