With fewer than one in 10 people with gambling problems seeking formal counselling the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation is working with doctors to promote early diagnosis and treatment.
Foundation chief executive officer Serge Sardo says people with gambling problems have a higher than average number of visits to their GP.
"People with gambling problems experience more stress-related illnesses including high blood pressure, insomnia and migraine and often present with symptoms that appear unrelated to gambling such as depression, anxiety, stomach upsets and headaches.1
"GPs are often the first point of call for people experiencing the negative effects of excessive gambling and can play a critical role in connecting people with gambling help services," he said.
The Foundation is working with Alfred Health and Turning Point to increase awareness among doctors about how to identify people with gambling problems.
Director of Alfred Psychiatry, Associate Professor Simon Stafrace says connecting the various parts of the health, welfare and problem gambling service system is important.
"The Foundation's 'no wrong door' approach is a step forward in ensuring systematic linkages and referral pathways are in place so people get the help they need,
"GPs can make great use of simple screening tools to help identify, manage and refer patients and this project aims to give them that information," he said.
The Foundation, along with Alfred Health and Turning Point, is hosting an information session for GPs during its inaugural Many ways to help conference being held in Melbourne this week.
Mr Sardo says the GP session is part of a broader strategy to support collaboration between different health and welfare services.
"People with complex needs may require an integrated treatment approach involving their doctor, counsellors and psychiatrists and some may even need pharmacological support," he said.
The Foundation has also produced a booklet An introduction to Gambler's Help for GPs (PDF - 948.5 KB) which is now available on its website at www.responsiblegambling.vic.gov.au
1. AMA Position Statement: The Health Effects of Problem Gambling 2012