Books target addiction ills

Jun 2, 2009 5:06 PM
Book Reviews by Howard Schwartz |

Guides can help, even save a life

Too often, families with a problem gambler or individuals who lose control have nowhere to turn until it’s too late. There’s denial or avoidance, and when individuals hit rock bottom many wonder if something could have been done sooner.

Sadly, there are few books out there to help individuals or families but some do exist. Here are a few select resources that can help those who care to save a life or find a sense of direction.

Mary Heineman’s Losing Your Shirt–Recovery for Compulsive Gamblers and Their Families ($16, paperbound, 255 pages) is one of the best. Originally published in 1992, it’s been updated and covers the victim, the family, women gamblers, senior citizens, underage gamblers and Internet gamblers, and intelligently discusses the dynamics in the compulsive gambler’s relationships, warning signs, individual case histories and does list places to write or call for help. The author has more than 20 years experience as a clinical psychologist in the area of pathological gambling.

Problem Gambling and Its Treatment by Ron Pavalko ($35.95, paperbound, 160 pages) was published in 2001 and takes an academic approach. It identifies various types of gamblers including their personality characteristics, their similarities to alcohol and drug addiction and their need for "action" and escape from daily life.

Who are the problem gamblers in society and what do studies show? What are the social costs and what obstacles exist to treat people who need help? There’s a section on Gamblers Anonymous and its effectiveness and how much is being spent (as of a decade ago) to help those who need it by state. The book is more of a resource for researchers, for those who operate casinos and for those who plan a career as clinical psychologists.

Understanding Problem Gamblers by Paul Bellringer (208 pages, paperbound, $25) should be read by anyone involved with a problem gambler as a client, family member, partner and by therapists in contact with problem gambling families. Published in 1999, the book analyzes how individuals make the dangerous transition from social gambling to dependency.

The author, from England, alerts families and individuals to signs and symptoms of loss of control and offers solutions through self-help support groups. The book is clearly oriented toward the gambler living in the United Kingdom, but is somewhat adaptable for use in the United States.

These books and more are available from the Gambler’s Book Shop, which this month moves to a new location in Las Vegas at 1500 East Tropicana Ave. after 45 years at its previous location near downtown. The store’s website is You can also call toll free 1-800-522-1777.

(Editor’s note: The Gamblers Book Club will begin its move this week, and hopefully be settled in their new location, next to the Liberace Museum, by June 8. Follow this website for any updates, including the announcement of a grand opening celebration.)

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Howard Schwartz