When considering the issue of addiction, much is often made of its associated costs. Whether it is drugs, alcohol, gambling or any other addictive practice, it is clear that there is a cost for all those affected – a cost for physical health, for social lives, jobs and careers, and family life – while the cost of treatment can also be considerable. Because gambling is a form of addiction that usually involves large sums of money, considering the true value of gambling addiction treatment costs in Canada is an important and interesting exercise to undergo.
Addiction affects people in many different ways, with drugs and alcohol two of the most physically damaging and visible addictions – it is usually difficult to hide such addictions from other people. Gambling, in contrast, is almost a ‘hidden’ addiction, in that there are comparatively fewer visible signs and even when they do manifest physically, they are not usually as extreme as those associated with drugs and alcohol.
Gambling addiction also suffers from its public portrayal as something glamorous and exciting, making it harder for addicts to accept they have a problem and accept the gambling addiction treatment costs that are an inevitable part of recovery. Compared to drinking, drugs and smoking, gambling has been traditionally considered the ‘acceptable’ addiction.
Why is gambling addiction such a problem?
A global study, which included Canada, into the prevalence of gambling found that across many countries the number of gamblers outnumbered non-gamblers, with the most common methods of gambling covering scratch cards, lotteries and sports betting. Among those considered ‘problem gamblers’ with gambling addictions, the most popular forms of gambling were online gambling and slot machines.
In 2017, the World Health Organization responded to what it saw as a growing global crisis by publishing a paper that shone a spotlight on “massive, unprecedented” growth in gambling that has been several decades in the making. The paper warned that increased availability of online gambling sites makes this crisis more likely to grow. The paper also expressed scepticism over the effectiveness of the regulatory approach over the years to permit but discourage gambling – taking into account that in 2016, the total amount of money lost to gambling since the mid-1980s was estimated at $400 billion.
The real cost of gambling addiction
While gambling addiction treatment costs in Canada are not small, when measured against the other wider costs of gambling addiction, they are thrown into sharp perspective. A powerful 2013 study crafted an argument against the opening of a new casino in Toronto by looking at the various associated costs of problem gambling. The paper analysed the financial losses per household but also described the health, social and economic costs of gambling addiction, painting a devastating picture of the overall impact on the population. Another study on gambling problems revealed other, more damaging costs such as major disruption to family wellbeing and in other interpersonal relationships.
It is a problem that has been assessed around the world. In Australia, a government inquiry estimated the social cost of gambling addiction at AU$4.7 billion a year, while in the UK it is the actual gambling institutions that have been pressured to step in and plough some of their considerable budgets into developing ways of treating gambling addiction. To offset gambling addiction treatment costs, the head of the English NHS warned that gambling companies could be taxed to help pay for it. It is an interesting approach that demands continued monitoring.
What professional help is there for gambling addiction?
While gambling addiction treatment costs in Canada need careful consideration by any affected problem gambler, it is worth looking at the wide variety of gambling addiction support on offer. It is clearly something that needs further heavy publicity, given that estimates point towards 80% of problem gamblers never seeking treatment for their problem. Frustratingly, around 70% return to gambling after treatment.
Addiction is a complex mental health issue and needs to be treated as such to have maximum effectiveness. Available treatments range from online self-help tools to in-person therapies, such as music and art therapy, and more traditional approaches like one-to-one counselling, cognitive behaviour therapy, psychotherapy and anger management.
Other available treatments include yoga, pilates, reiki healing and Muay Thai, which are more physical therapies aimed at helping those most in need to improve their strength and resilience. Some institutions champion self-reliance as a way of preventing relapse, by instilling abstinence practice and better identification of the early signs of cravings. There are a number of signs and symptoms of problem gambling, which include restlessness, repeated returning to gambling even after big financial losses, and habitual lying and dishonesty as a way of covering up gambling activities.
Counting the cost of problem gambling
Gambling addiction treatment costs in Canada are ultimately of minimal consequence when weighted against the huge financial costs, not to mention the costs to family and social wellbeing, of a gambling addiction that has been left to develop unheeded.