Intended for healthcare professionals


Pathological gambling

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 05 April 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j1593
  1. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, founder and lead clinician
  1. National Problem Gambling Clinic, London, UK
  1. h.bowdenjones02{at}

Gambling disorder deserves to be treated just like any other addiction

Pathological gambling is a serious health problem that has attracted plenty of political and media attention over the years, but no national agreement has yet been reached on NHS involvement.

A 2014 paper for the Royal College of Psychiatrists on the need for NHS treatment of problem gamblers described the illness as a “hidden addiction.” Its manifestations and indeed presence in society were not as apparent to the general population or health professionals at the time and it consequently remained underdiagnosed and untreated.1

Since then, media attention has made problem gambling much more visible, drawing attention to gambling related crime, mental illness (specifically depression and suicidal ideation), and the harms associated with fixed odds betting terminals.23 Fears about the addictive potential of these terminals led the UK government to re-examine the maximum stake offered by these machines. Research has also progressed. In 2016, Roberts and colleagues reported clear links between problem gambling and violence in men,4 and earlier this year, Cowlishaw and …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription