Addiction: Gambling With Your Health (cont.)

But Tom Tucker, director of the California Council on Problem Gambling, stresses that there's a long road ahead. Far more gamblers might be identified, he says, if physicians administered a simple two-page gambling screening questionnaire to patients complaining of diffuse problems related to stress and anxiety. (The questionnaire can be ordered by calling the help line 1-800-GAMBLER.)

The good news, according to Geffner, is that once a pathological gambling disorder has been identified, it is highly treatable. The most successful treatment program is one that combines cognitive and behavioral modification therapy with a 12-step support group such as Gamblers Anonymous and some form of money management. "The goal is to get the patient back into family life, back into working out in the gym, developing alternative habits, and away from the activities that trigger the pathology," Geffner says. "As with any addiction, you have to take things one day at a time."

Indeed, with help from Gamblers Anonymous, Bruce R. was able to get back on his feet again. Due to his gambling debts, however, at age 57 he has no money saved for retirement. "All those years I wasted saying to myself, 'Once I know why I gamble, I'll stop.' It never happened," he says. But the GA support group helped him come to terms with his addiction. "You go to meetings and say, 'I need help,' then someone else says something that might apply. You realize you're not alone. Sometimes that's all it takes to start the process to recovery."

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Last Editorial Review: 1/30/2005 10:41:34 PM