Fall 2005

H e a l t h   P r o m o t i o n
Resource kit to help physicians help problem gamblers

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Physicians who understand problem gambling, all of its complexities and available resources, are better equipped to identify a patient with a gambling problem and to refer them to an appropriate service.

by Renee Ryan

Physicians often represent a problem gambler’s first point of entry when they are looking for help within the health care system. As problem gambling can be well hidden, it may be especially difficult to identify. There are a number of reasons:

  • Frequently, the patient will not recognize that they even have a gambling problem that can be treated and, therefore, they will present with other troubles;

  • Due to issues of shame, a problem gambler may choose not to disclose information related to a gambling problem; and,

  • The symptoms of a gambling problem may be very difficult to notice as compared to a substance use problem. The signs of a gambling problem can go undetected for a long time.

Problem gambling is an issue that affects all areas of a person’s life. It is not only a financial problem; it can also have physical, psychological and emotional impacts. Problem gambling will affect a person’s health but the patient will not always connect their health problems to their gambling behaviour. This is where the physician’s knowledge of problem gambling can be beneficial.

Physicians who understand problem gambling, all of its complexities and available resources, are better equipped to identify a patient with a gambling problem and to refer them to an appropriate service.

The Department of Health and Community Services is currently developing an information package about problem gambling for all general and family practitioners in Newfoundland and Labrador. This kit will include general information about problem gambling, the physician’s role, a brief screening tool and resource information, including a listing of addictions services offices across the province.

This information kit will be distributed to physicians during Addictions Awareness Week, which runs from November 20-26, 2005.

For more information about problem gambling, contact Renee Ryan, provincial addictions consultant.



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