Once a compulsive gambler recognizes his/her addiction, it can be difficult to know what to do next. There are several treatment options currently available for problem gamblers, and knowing the pros and cons of each type can increase the likelihood of a successful recovery. The following are the major current treatment options available:

Gambler's Anonymous

Gambler's Anonymous (GA) is a twelve-step program with more than 1,000 meetings set up in the U.S. and worldwide. GA meetings are free, anonymous and widely available to individuals suffering from gambling problems. Attendance of meetings is voluntary, meaning individuals must be ready to confront their addiction without the supervision of a medical professional.

Research suggests that GA is most effective for people with severe gambling addictions, and no co-occurring addictions or mental health problems. Studies critical of GA argue that the program requires further evidence of its effectiveness, and that it may not be suitable for dealing with relapses.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy combining behavioral and cognitive research to create a goal-oriented treatment plan, with a definite end date. Research shows CBT to be an effective treatment for pathological gambling, with CBT considered the most effective treatment for gambling addiction to date.

Studies further suggest that combining CBT with GA creates an even more effective treatment than CBT alone. However, CBT requires treatment from a trained professional, making it more costly than some other options.

Drug Therapy

Drug therapy is another treatment option for gambling addiction, with researchers continuously testing new and existing medications for effectiveness. Studies suggest that pharmacological treatments of pathological gambling are effective in the short term.

As more time passes and more trials occur, medical professionals can better assess the long term success rates in gambling addicts. In the meantime, drug therapy can offer an effective, though potentially expensive, form of addiction treatment.

Self-Help

Self-help programs and workbooks can be a less costly treatment for some individuals with gambling addiction. Studies show than approxmately one-third of problem gamblers can recover naturally from their addiction.

These rates increase further when combined with motivational help from an outside source. Still, success rates of self-help treatment are not as high as those of CBT, and it can be hard to know whether or not an individual will be one of those who will recover successfully without further treatment. While self-help treatment is cheaper than other methods, it can be something of a gamble itself when it comes to successful recovery from addiction.

Things To Consider When Choosing A Treatment

With several forms of treatment available for pathological gamblers, it can be difficult to decide which path to take towards recovery. The National Council on Problem Gambling stresses the fact that no single treatment for gambling addiction is right for everyone. It is important to find a treatment program that is effective for the individual, giving careful thought to the type, length, setting and intensity of the approach. Below are some questions to consider when choosing a treatment for problem gambling:

  • How much does the treatment cost? Is it covered by insurance?
  • Is there a specific plan for treatment? Does it have an end date, or is it ongoing?
  • Is the treatment in-patient (the person "checks-in" to a clinic), or out-patient?
  • Is the treatment facilitated by a professional? Is that professional licensed or accredited? Does that professional have experience treating gambling addiction?
  • Are family and loved ones involved in the process?
  • Does the treatment address other addictions and physical/mental health issues?