Do Healthcare Professionals Have a Duty to Warn Patients About Gambling?

This month, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended that healthcare professionals in the UK ask particular patients about their relationship with gambling. Why? Because there are certain mental and behavioral health conditions that may make them more vulnerable to, and/or cooccur, with gambling disorder:

“NICE has identified that when people present at appointments with depression, anxiety, or thoughts about self-harm or suicide or in relation to a possible addiction (for example, alcohol or drug misuse) they may be at increased risk of harm from gambling and NICE recommends this needs to be identified and addressed by healthcare professionals.”

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

NICE recommends that these “at risk” patients be screened for gambling disorder, and from there, be pointed towards resources that will provide them with the corrective course of action that includes (but is not exclusive to) access to behavioral health specialists.

The UK has made some significant strides in protecting its citizens from the threat of gambling. In June of 2023, the UK’s largest media outlet took a stance and banned all forms of gambling advertising. Will this NICE recommended initiative also pass? Whether it does or does not is outside of our predictive capacity, but it does make one wonder if such a duty should fall upon healthcare professionals here in the United States where gambling has swept across the nation.

Why Healthcare Professionals in the USA Should Consider Asking (and Informing) Certain Patients About Their Relationship with Gambling

They Already Do for Other Types of Habitual Consumption”

Healthcare professionals in the USA already ask certain patients about habitual consumption of substances (alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs) that when present with other conditions may lead to even more concerning patient outcomes. While gambling is not a substance, there is no denying the hold it can take on an individual’s life, and research has shown that there are also negative physical consequences connected to gambling that could complicate existing medical conditions. Please keep reading as we expand further on this consideration.

There Are Mental and Behavioral Health Issues that Cooccur with Gambling Disorder

There are mental and behavioral health issues that may increase a patient’s vulnerability to developing gambling disorder. Kindbridge Behavioral Health calls upon the healthcare community to seriously consider asking patients with the following cooccurring (with problem gambling) conditions about their relationship with gambling:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Alcohol use disorder

If you work with patients in a healthcare setting, we wholeheartedly encourage you to learn more about who has highest risk to develop a gambling problem.

Prescription Medications May Make them Gamble More

This one is directly related to key healthcare professionals, including pharmacists who are the gatekeepers. There are three known types of prescription drugs that are known to increase the risk of problematic gambling behavior. If physicians and pharmacists already ask patients about pre-existing allergies before prescribing and handing them medications, is it a stretch to ask them to inquire about one more thing for just three types of medications?

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