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Study: Gambling addiction not permanent
The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry published a Harvard Medical School study that found that many gambling addicts recover from their addiction naturally, without treatment, and that problem gambling is a more dynamic phenomenon than what people have thought.
The published review paper, "Stability and Progression of Disordered Gambling: Lessons From Longitudinal Studies," takes a look at five major studies conducted by a Harvard-led team of researchers.
What they found challenges conventional wisdom about problem gambling. Organizations such as Gamblers Anonymous and the National Council on Problem Gambling have long believed that gambling addiction is a degenerative addiction.
That means, they believe that problem gambling steadily increases in gambling addicts, with people betting more often over time as they get more addicted.
However, the Harvard researchers found that gambling addicts do not necessarily get steadily worse over time and they can fall in and out of problem gambling. Some may even recover from the addiction on their own.
"Although it might be tempting to assume that stability or progressive worsening characterizes disordered gambling, longitudinal study of classification patterns does not support this conclusion," say the researches in their review paper.
In their conclusion, the researchers point out that short-term and long-term follow-up periods indicate that individuals with some gambling problems experience considerable movement in a dnout of more sever and less severe levels of gambling disorder. Often, they move out of more severe levels and are able to keep from returning to those levels as well.
"These findings challenge many common beliefs about the course of gambling-related problems and disorders," say the researchers. "Correcting such misconceptions is particularly important to youthful fields of inquiry, such as the study of disordered gambling."
Lead author Debi LaPlante, a psychiatry instructor at the Harvard Medical School, said in The Ottawa Citizen, that the conclusion is surprisingly similar to what researchers have found about other addictions, such as alcoholism and heroin addiction.
The Ottawa Citizen also quoted some Canadian experts who say the Harvard study doesn't offer much new information.The common thought among Canadian organizations and research is that addictive behaviors can come and go, and that they are behaviors that people can learn to control. In the U.S., the prevalent thought is similar to that of the 12-step disease model which states that the addiction is always progressive.