Harvard Study Challenges Conventional Wisdom About Gambling Addiction

by Lou on February 14, 2008

A new study by Harvard Medical School researchers questions the prevailing view that gambling addiction is a progressive and intractable disorder. In their analysis of five longitudinal studies of gambling behavior, the investigators found no evidence to support the commonly held assumptions that individuals cannot recover from the disorder. They also found that more severely disordered individuals are less likely to improve than individuals who are less severely impaired, and that the symptoms of those with some gambling-related problems are more likely to progressively worsen than individuals with few or no symptoms.

According to lead author Debi LaPlante, Ph.D., instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, the course of the disorder “appears to be dynamic, with individuals moving back and forth between health and more disordered states, and with a higher rate of recovery than previously assumed.” This finding challenges the portrayal of pathological gambling in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as always “persistent and recurrent.”

According to LaPlante, these findings have important implications for diagnosis and treatment. “As researchers learn more about the course of the disorder, health care providers can develop better tailored treatment plans,” she says. “Keep in mind, however, that despite these positive findings, improvement in the health of individuals with gambling-related problems is not a certainty, and the rates of worsening health are still substantial. Clearly, more research is needed to understand these patterns.”

The article, “Stability and Progression of Disordered Gambling: Lessons from Longitudinal Studies,” was published in the January 2008 issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, and was primarily funded by the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG), through the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. The NCRG is the only non-profit organization in the United States exclusively dedicated to funding scientific research on gambling disorders.
A copy of this study can be obtained by sending email to info@divisiononaddictions.org.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: