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Petry Wins Major Grant to
Study Gambling Addiction
February 28, 2000

The National Institutes of Mental Health has awarded a Health Center psychologist $1 million to broaden her research on treatments for gambling addictions.

This is the first time the NIMH, a component of the National Institutes of Health, has funded an organized study of treatment options for compulsive gambling.

"This marks a major breakthrough in our efforts to better understand pathological gambling and raise awareness about this addiction," says Nancy Petry, a psychologist and principal investigator on the grant.

The five-year grant will allow Petry, a nationally recognized scholar in addiction research, to continue studying the efficacy of three options to treat problem gamblers. She began this project in 1998 with start-up funding from the Health Center and with assistance from the Compulsive Gambling Treatment Program in Middletown. To date, her project has enrolled more than 85 people into three different eight-week, outpatient treatment plans.

With NIMH funding, she expects to enroll 220 participants, who also will receive eight weeks of outpatient treatment and be followed for one year.

The treatment options offer varying levels of intervention and cognitive-behavior therapy techniques.

"The NIMH funding will allow us to cast a wider net for participants and sustain this project at least another five years," Petry says.

An estimated five-percent of the American population is addicted to the thrills and highs of gambling - at the race track, the slot machines and wherever lottery tickets are sold. She notes that studies link these addictions with family problems, obvious financial woes and very high suicide rates.

"Problem gambling has steadily increased following the spread of legalized gambling in the 1960s, and the growing popularity of casinos in the last 10 years," Petry says. "This is a very real problem for men and women alike - including many seniors.

"People need to be able recognize the signs of problem gambling," she says. "These include: difficulty stopping once they've started gambling; spending more money and time on gambling than intended; planning activities around gambling; hearing complaints from loved-ones about gambling habits; and more.

"And they need to know where to turn for help," she adds. "Our study will help determine meaningful options to help people. With funding from the NIMH, we hope to establish one of the world's premier sites for understanding and treating problem gamblers."

For more information on the study, or to participate, call (860) 679-2177.

Maureen McGuire