Latest developments in causes and treatments



The Effectiveness of Internet-Based Treatments for Gambling Disorders

This is the last in a series of posts on gambling disorders, including “A Perfect Storm of Gambling Addiction Is Headed for U.S.” on Tuesday this week, and “Are There Any Effective Treatments for Gambling Disorder?” on Wednesday. Today, we’ll conclude with a look at internet-based treatments for gambling disorders.

In a systematic review of randomized controlled trials of non-pharmacological treatments for gambling disorders, a team of researchers from Portugal found special reasons for encouraging the development of internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT):

The results at post-treatment and follow-up showed significant improvements for the internet-based CBT program group on gambling behaviour, gambling severity, gambling urge, gambling related cognitions, depression, anxiety and stress, when compared to controls.

The studies cited found the online version of CBT to be equally effective with in-person CBT and to retain efficacy through repeated followups. 

The most thorough study cited by the Portuguese team is a randomized controlled trial in Australia involving 174 participants testing internet-based CBT as a therapy for gambling disorder. The therapy resulted in “significant treatment gains on gambling severity” and “reductions in a range of other gambling-related and mental health outcomes.”

A systematic review of internet-based interventions for addictive behavior conducted by two researchers with the Department of Psychology at the University of Sydney, and one with the Centre for Gambling Education and Research at Southern Cross University in Australia, is even more emphatic about the benefits of an internet-based approach:

The current review concluded that Internet-based interventions are effective in achieving positive behavioural change through reducing problematic behaviours. This mode of therapy has been found to have the capacity to provide effective and practical services for those who might have remained untreated, subsequently reducing the barriers for help-seekers.

The Portuguese authors conclude: “The internet-based approach […] increases treatment options, allowing more patients to be treated, maintaining the efficacy of a face-to-face CBT.” So there is known, effective treatment for those suffering from gambling disorders, and it can be effectively delivered over the internet on smartphones or other devices. All we need is one effective AI therapist, and an unlimited number could be treated at a modest cost.

Written by Steve O’Keefe. First published February 22, 2024.


“Non-pharmacological treatment of gambling disorder: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials,” BMC Psychiatry, February 2023.

“Internet-Based Delivery of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Compared to Monitoring, Feedback and Support for Problem Gambling: A Randomised Controlled Trial,” Journal of Gambling Studies, January 2017.

Image Copyright: Violin.


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