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Co-Morbidity and Problem Gambling

How to address gambling addiction when a player has addictions to alcohol and/or drugs

Co-Morbidity and Problem Gambling

It may seem like a real minefield while trying to help someone with gambling addiction who also has an addiction to drugs and alcohol, or maybe a diagnosed mental health condition. Which one is more important? Some of the questions you may have:

  • Where do we start?
  • Which addiction is worse?
  • If we take away one, will the other get worse?
  • How do we find someone specialized in both areas?
  • Is someone with more than one in a deeper predicament?
  • Is it harder to recover with multiple addictions or co-occurring disorders?
  • Do they need residential treatment?

All valid questions, when it looks like the actual addiction or mental health condition is the real problem, when they are actually the symptom of the problem. When you look beyond someone’s presenting behaviors to an understanding of untouchable, unbreakable mental health, it does not seem so out of reach.

There is an old fable about a reporter who goes to interview a Fortune 100 troubleshooter. When he arrives, his first question is, so how do you deal with big problems? And the answer he gets is surprising. The troubleshooter says, “I don’t deal with big problems.”

The reporter, somewhat perplexed, looks at him in shock, and the troubleshooter then says, “If a problem looks really big, I know I’m looking at it wrong, so I step away, until it looks simpler. Then from that place, I can resolve anything.”

It’s very easy to get drawn into the media hype of addiction and mental health, and even the world of psychology or psychiatry, where no answers have been found even though billions of dollars have been spent.

Dr. Allen Frances, once known as America’s most powerful psychiatrist, said in his book Saving Normal, “Our classification of mental disorders is no more than a collection of fallible and limited constructs that seeks but never finds the truth.”

There is always a way, and there are solutions regardless of how bad things may look from your current state of mind.

When Someone Needs Medical Intervention

Of course, it is important to address someone’s primary health risk immediately if that is a concern, but when looking at long-term recovery and the process of understanding addiction, it’s worth considering the options and also learning to trust your own instincts about what feels right—not blindly following people’s advice because they have a medical qualification.

Co-occurring disorders when including drugs and alcohol can be dangerous to detox from, so it is always best to seek the help of a medical practitioner who can advise how to be detoxed safely from the medication. It is worth knowing that simply removing the substances from the body is only the initial part of the process, not the solution.

Can process addictions be treated without residential care?

Yes, absolutely. When medical intervention is not needed, then anyone can get help without going into a residential setting. There has to be a desire to change or at least the willingness to be present to a new understanding. Typically, there are three reasons why people want to change:

  • The person has had enough, is sick and tired of being sick and tired;
  • A family member forms an intervention and the person struggling is forced to look deeper; or,
  • An insight—the person suffering sees beyond what they are doing to new possibilities.

No. 2 doesn’t often work well, but can be the catalyst of change on some occasions.

Understanding the Real Problem, Beyond the Symptom

On a recent podcast recording Misunderstanding of Mental Health I did with Dr William Pettit Jr MD, a twice board-certified psychiatrist of almost 50 years. He stated that there is only 1 cause of mental illness, chronic mental stress, or overthinking to put it more simply, and one solution, seeing beyond our beliefs, about ourselves, about others and the world around us.

What he was pointing to was that our experience of life, our reality is created from the inside out. Yet to anyone who is suffering, it looks as if they are victims of the deal life has given them, they experience life from the outside in. This is not a concept or belief, just an explanation, that is true for everyone, we are all creating our reality moment to moment with the power of thought, yet we just don’t know it.

When addiction and mental illness is seen from this standpoint, it makes perfect sense, people innocently and unknowingly create a scary, sad, or difficult experience, then they try to escape from it with the use of processes (gambling) or substances. It’s a simple understanding of how the human operating system works at it’s very core, often way too simple for people to understand, because of the addiction to complexity.


Finding Help that Understands, Can Explain, and Offer a Solution

Addiction is often theorised as a disease or unexplainable mental illness that can only be treated with practices and has respite periods, but this understanding gives a simple explanation for all suffering.

In a research paper written recently by Dr Thomas Kelley for the European Journal of Psychiatry there was the following statement:

Just as there is an innate health-producing design behind every human system (i.e., gastro-intestinal, cardio-vascular, excretory) we posit there is also an innate health-generating design behind the agency of thought; that virtually everyone is born thinking in an effortless, free-flowing way and experiencing mental health  

Suffering is what we learn here in our human experience, unlearning everything we have learned about change is the start of seeing it from a fresh perspective.

Your chosen route to getting help for yourself or a loved one should answer all questions about the suffering, and offer simple solutions. When one gets to see how the simple human operating system works, things don’t look so scary and overwhelming, recovery is then imminent without the need for practices, techniques or lifetimes of therapy, meetings, or labels. You are free.

Jason Shiers is a Certified Transformative Coach & Certified Psychotherapist @ UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT). Jason has been working with addictions and mental health for over 20 years in evolving ways.


Jason Shiers is a certified transformative coach and certified psychotherapist at UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT). He has been working with addictions and mental health for over 20 years in evolving ways. For information visit

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