Problem gambling is a significant primary care health problem
Gambling is a common activity: in fact, 83% of people in Ontario gamble at least once a year . Although most people gamble responsibly, a significant number experience problems. Moderate to severe problem gambling affects approximately 1.2% to 3.4% of Ontarians in a year; in other words, 160,000 – 460,000 people in Ontario have a gambling problem. 
Problem gambling not only injures the person with the gambling problem, but also family, friends and the community. The harms commonly caused include financial loss, relationship difficulty, psychological problems, lost productivity, gambling-related crime, and stress-related physical problems.
Intervention makes a difference
Problem gambling treatment is effective for both the person with the gambling problem and their family members . Furthermore, early identification and intervention can limit the damage caused to individuals, families and the community. Unfortunately, a large percentage of people affected by problem gambling do not receive treatment .
Screening is an important step
People affected by problem gambling tend to keep their problems hidden due to stigma and shame ; so, screening is key. Fortunately, short and easy to administer screening tools are available:
The NODS-CLiP is a brief, three-question screening instrument that is derived from the DSM-IV .
The Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) is a validated, nine-question screener, which was developed in Canada .
Treatment is available for free in Ontario
Free and confidential treatment is available across Ontario, both for the person with problem gambling and for their family members, and wait times are normally short. A family member can receive treatment even if the person with the gambling problem does not.
ProblemGambling.ca has free and anonymous Self-Help Gambling Tools – both for people with problem gambling and for families and friends.
In addition, the Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline provides information and referrals to any interested party, including people with problem gambling, family members, and professionals.
Mutual-aid groups like Gambler’s Anonymous and Gam-Anon also offer services in many communities in Ontario.
Resources: Where to Find Help
Ontario Medical Review Articles on Assessment and Treatment
The following articles were published in the Ontario Medical Review in 2003. They are posted here with the permission of the Ontario Medical Association.
Problem Gambling - Part I: Patient Screening and Assessment by Colleen Tessier, BSW, RSW and Bruce Ballon, MD, FRCPC (References)
Problem Gambling - Part II: Treatment and Referral by Brenda Teasell, MSW, RSW and Bruce Ballon, MD, FRCPC. (References)