Drink and Drugs News DDN September 2018 - Page 7

More on gambling addiction at www.drinkanddrugsnews.com street homeless in London I got off the coach at Canterbury, Kent. I sought help from the nearest homeless shelter and with what I had just put myself through, I found a will to seek help to try to stop gambling. But I came up against a problem. I realised that there was no accessible face-to-face support at all for those who have gambling problems. And what became evidently clear as well, was that knowledge and awareness around problematic and excessive gambling behaviour among staff was very poor, bordering on non-existent. Here I was, with a serious problem, desperately wanting help, but because there was no help and staff were unknowledgeable, I felt excluded and marginalised. Unintentionally, and by some odd fortune, I developed an alcohol dependency. And straightaway, treatment options opened for me. I was referred to what was then a dedicated NHS alcohol Treatment service and periodically, for the next few years, I participated in a whole array of help and support that is commonly found in addiction treatment services. And because I was engaging in treatment, I was able to take a good look at my gambling behaviour too. I managed very successfully to address my alcohol use and in a matter of months was able to get to a point where I was able to abstain – and I stayed stopped for four years. My gambling, however, persisted. I felt something was missing and I still felt marginalised. I wasn’t getting something from the all the treatment I was receiving through the alcohol service. As with thousands of other people facing the challenges of overcoming addiction, I had a serious relapse – time for rehab. I began the search in October 2009 when I was 27 and come March 2010 I was walking up the drive to the therapeutic community where I stayed for 20 months. It was a therapeutically difficult and painful experience but one which I am so grateful for. But still I felt marginalised because I had a predominant gambling problem – and just as with my experience of the workers in the homeless hostel, I felt this recurring sense that awareness and understanding of gambling-related harm (GRH) was inadequately low. Although I’d make positive advances in areas of my being and recovery, I struggled to maintain my 20-month abstinence from gambling, and relapsed. This was when, after ten years of trying to get a handle on my gambling, I decided to approach the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) National Problem Gambling Clinic (NPGC) – currently the only dedicated NHS service that provides gambling-specific support. I self-referred and in a few weeks joined an eight-week cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) course. Unlike all the hours of CBT I had done previously, this course has been brilliantly modified and refined to meet the needs of individuals with gambling problems, just as the person with issues relating to alcohol or opioids needs tailored support. Furthermore, I was able to meet others like me and for the first time didn’t feel excluded or marginalised. I found the something that was missing. And I haven’t looked back. ‘I became intensely consumed with recapturing the potency of emotions attained by the “Big Win” and I began to gamble as often as I could.’ www.drinkanddrugsnews.com GAMBLING WITH PUBLIC HEALTH Let’s increase the chances of a good outcome, says Lord Victor Adebowale G ambling is a common part of everyday life, accessible online 24/7 and unavoidable across media and advertising platforms. Yet for some people, it can become harmful and problematic, affecting relationships, housing, employment and health. The timing of the recent APPG on Complex Needs and Dual Diagnosis meeting on ‘harmful gambling’ coincided with the football World Cup – four weeks of sporting action that gripped the nation and over which it was expected that the amount spent on gambling in the UK rose to £2.5bn; an alarming figure. In the UK nearly 9m adults will gamble over any four-week period, of which 430,000 can be identified as ‘problem gamblers’. It is an addiction that impacts all pockets of society, yet one which only now is starting to be addressed as a public health issue. Dr Steve Sharman from the University of East London presented his recent research findings on the correlation between homelessness and gambling – a pocket of society many would not commonly associate with gambling, despite 82 per cent of homeless problem gamblers interviewed experiencing these issues prior to homelessness. He explained how 24/7 casinos, which provide a warm, safe haven for those otherwise on the street, and incentives such as free bathrooms and hot food and drinks, become attractive but are only available if you are gambling – a morally corrupt pay-off in my opinion. Lawrence Goode from the Gordon Moody Association, a charity that provides advice, education and high-quality innovative therapeutic support to male problem gamblers and those affected by problem gambling, reiterated the wider non-direct impact gambling can have on families and children. Of the 74 people who went through their residential treatment last year, 72 relationships broke down and 69 children were temporarily without a father. The government is making some effort to address harmful gambling, for example recent government policy has cut the maximum permitted stake on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2 – a controversial move welcomed by some in the bookmaking industry – and PHE have committed to carrying out a review of the damage to health caused by gambling. However, to make any real and effective progress it is obvious that more funding, research and treatment options are needed to address the health and social concerns harmful gambling presents in the UK. Addiction is addiction, whether drugs, alcohol or gambling. It’s a behaviour pattern and what the sector and NHS commissioning services need to realise is that we should be providing holistic support, treating the person rather than an individual problem. Lord Victor Adebowale is co-chair of the APPG on Complex Needs and Dual Diagnosis, and CEO of Turning Point September 2018 | drinkanddrugsnews | 7