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Addiction with a difference

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The Pharmaceutical Journal Vol 265 No 7106p114
July 22, 2000 Onlooker

Addiction with a difference

When we talk about addiction and dependence it is commonly assumed that we refer to drugs which have a pharmacological effect on the body. Yet there is another kind of addiction which affects the mind and is a far subtler influence to which individuals of weak character may succumb.
An editorial in the British Medical Journal for June 10 discusses the future of gambling in the United Kingdom. It states that "for most people gambling is an enjoyable, if occasional, experience". Some people might dispute the enjoyment and opt for craving. As with all habits which take over psychological control, gambling may have harmful consequences for individuals, their families and friends, and society at large.
Excessive involvement in gambling is recognised as a psychiatric disorder tout court. It is estimated that between 1 and 2 per cent of adults aged 18 or more in the United States and Canada rank as pathological gamblers, and that 2 to 4 per cent of adults might be called problem gamblers. Similar figures have been derived from Australia and New Zealand. Among the harmful tendencies the habit brings are a higher incidence of divorce, physical and psychological problems, unemployment, bankruptcy and imprisonment.
Throughout the world, lotteries, casinos, and gambling machines have increased in number in recent years. In the United Kingdom, a demand for gambling facilities prompted the creation of the National Lottery, an institution which has multiplied its opportunities and outlets and had repercussions on other branches of the gambling industry. More women now participate in such activities, in contrast to the previous situation where betting shops, race courses and casinos tended to be visited mainly by men.
Treatment of the gambling tendency is difficult, since much regarding the nature of the urge is not understood. Adequate funding of investigations into prevention and treatment in order to minimise the personal and social effects of gambling is required, now that increasing numbers of people are turning to the habit.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 20002284

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