NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Opening Plenary: Gambling Research: What We Know and What We Need to Know for "Best Practices"

In today’s opening plenary session, Gambling Research: What We Know and What We Need to Know for "Best Practices," Dr. Howard Shaffer set the tone for the 7th annual NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction by identifying some of the obstacles that exist in the process of taking solid scientific research and turning it into best practices for the treatment and prevention of gambling addictions, as well as discussing the trends in disordered gambling research over the past 100 years.

According to Shaffer, the process of translating research to practice is very complex, involving a number of steps in which clinicians, researchers, industry advocates and patients can “get lost” (i.e. drop out) of the process. With this in mind, Shaffer stressed how important it is for all those involved in the prevention and treatment of gambling disorders to focus on the ultimate goal of research and practice: to prevent, reduce and ameliorate addiction-related suffering. During this session, Shaffer used treatment to cover a broad range of generic treatment activities, ranging from clinical and counselor facilitated programs to responsible gaming practices and public policy.

Shaffer identified a number of obstacles to achieving the ultimate objective including the willful disregard for the ultimate objective by research proponents and critics alike, the natural debates among researchers and clinicians that are corollary to the translation process, and the fact that some treatment providers already think they know the best practices despite having little or no evidence. In a youthful field like disordered gambling research, each of these obstacles is dangerous for the development of best practices, Shaffer said.

In the study Trends in Gambling Research: Quantifying, Categorizing, and Describing Citations, Shaffer and his colleagues examined the growth of knowledge in the field of gambling studies by examining the literature published between 1903 and 2003. Their study found that the growth of gambling studies has been exponential, with 97 percent of gambling-related articles having been published since 1963, and 33 percent of all gambling-related citations being published between 1999 and 2003. The most popular topics explored in gambling studies citations have been pathology, risk-taking, decision-making and addiction. Additionally, between 1999 and 2003, studies addressing epidemiology, drug abuse, comorbidity and neuroscience have become increasingly prevalent. According to Shaffer, these findings imply there is a trend toward placing gambling in a larger context to understand not only the behavior, but also the behaviors and factors that surround it.

Before closing, Shaffer encouraged treatment providers to not let patients get lost in translation. He stressed that patients must be treated with compassion, empathy and respect as part of the treatment process. To illustrate his meaning, Shaffer offered case studies from his Expressions of Addictions project, which is a collection of photographs and mini biographies of people who have suffered from addiction at any time in their lives.

To access Dr. Shaffer’s study on trends in gambling research, click here, or visit the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders’ NCRG Conference Resource Page. When prompted, please enter the case-sensitive password: institute.


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