Compulsive gambling and the DSMR

Article in today’s NY Times: Addiction Diagnoses May Rise Under Guideline Changes

Among other things the article states that “In addition, the manual for the first time would include gambling as an addiction, and it might introduce a catchall category — “behavioral addiction — not otherwise specified” — that some public health experts warn would be too readily used by doctors, despite a dearth of research, to diagnose addictions to shopping, sex, using the Internet or playing video games.”

Does it make sense to include gambling as an addiction? Common sense logic says yes, “evidence based” logic says no. “Evidence based” (in mental health)  is based on the economical needs of the political system, not on the health realities on the ground. Our states promote openly and shamelessly gambling to squeeze billions of dollars from their citizens despite the “evidence” that shows that the majority of gamblers are recurrent addicted compulsive gamblers. That “evidence” can’t be used to justify our lotto and casino economy. Consequently, the states will refuse to accept compulsive gambling or gambling addiction as a major psychiatric illness. It is not because the behavior is not ‘debilitating’, it is. It’s because  the states would have to admit that they are the cause of the problem.

The terms addiction and compulsion can’t be logically segregated to alcoholism. We choose where to put the labels.I’m not debating here the changes to the DSMR, I’m just calling the attention to the relation between compulsive gambling and our states’ promotion of it. Whether it should be classified as a psychiatric illness is not my point now. If alcoholism can be retained as an illness, logic says that compulsive gambling should be included too.  The definition of the terms ‘compulsion’ and ‘addiction’ applies to that behavior.

It’s time we look at the reality of compulsive gambling, and why more casinos are not the solution to our economical woes. Mr. Cuomo succumbed to the casino corporations and want to change our state’s Constitution to allow casinos here. That’s a bad move. We ought to vote against it.

Feel free to post your comments about this post or about the NY Times article.

Lourdes Cintron (founder of The City-wide Mental Health Project)

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