|Two Royal Ottawa Hospital researchers from the Institute of Mental Health Research are trying to recruit 105 problem gamblers in a universally unique study, but not enough people are applying.|
Dr. Arun Ravindran, a psychiatrist, and Dr. John Telner, a psychologist, are trying to determine whether anti-depressant medication, alone or combined with cognitive behaviour therapy, can successfully treat compulsive gambling.
The gamblers will be divided into five groups: one receiving only weekly therapy, a second receiving only medication, a third getting both, a fourth given therapy and a placebo and the final one subjected to a placebo only.
Funded by the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre, the $200,000 study is expected to take about two years.
It is hoped that an anti-depressant that is effective on other disorders such as OCD and pyromania might be effective on gambling addicts.
Those chosen for therapy will be treated with cognitive behaviour therapy, following the guidelines of one of Canada's foremost experts on gambling Dr. Robert Ladouceur. He reports that as many as 80 per cent of problem gamblers can be treated effectively with behaviour therapy.
The candidate streamed for therapy will attend a weekly session of about 60 minutes for the first eight weeks, then biweekly sessions for the next eight weeks. The therapy is an established way of scrutinizing the thinking process that leads the gambler to his delusional world.
Even though problem gambling affects an estimated two to three per cent of the population, and all the treatment is free of charge, they are finding it difficult to recruit people. While there are undoubtedly tens of thousands of problem gamblers in the area, the first round of recruiting has only attracted three candidates.
'Part of the problem is denial,' said Dr. Ravindran. 'They feel they're in control. They might say they enjoy it but they don't recognize the compulsive element.'
The next step is broader advertising and more appeals to groups already working with problem gamblers. Those taking part in the ROH study pay nothing for the treatment.
Not all callers could be accepted to the study, however, because subjects must not already be on any anti-depressant medication or be battling other addictions. Those interested in finding out if they qualify are asked to call Ontario 798-2994.
A 'pathological gambler,' as defined in an American Psychiatric Association manual, is a person who fits five or more of the following:
1. Is preoccupied with gambling (for example, preoccupied with reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or
thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble).
2. Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
3. Has repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
4. Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
5. Gambles as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (for example, feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression).
6. After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even ('chasing' one's losses).
7. Lies to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
8. Has committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance gambling.
9. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling.
10. Relies on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling.