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BPS response to calls by NHS mental health chief Claire Murdoch to stop the ‘vicious gambling cycle’

16 January 2020

In response to the statement released by NHS mental health chief Claire Murdoch, BPS chief executive Sarb Bajwa said:

"It is vitally important that those who need mental health support for problem gambling are able to access the right help from a psychologist when they need it.

This is particularly important for children and young people who are more vulnerable.

It is good news that the NHS long-term plan has committed to rolling out specialist problem gambling clinics.

This needs to be accompanied by urgent action to expand and develop the psychological workforce in order to deliver these services."

Katherine Carpenter, chair of the BPS Division of Neuropsychology, identifies gambling as two to four times more likely in teenagers and young adults and points to growing evidence of a strong neurobiological vulnerability to gambling in young people. 

Katherine said :

"One of the most important contributory factors for young people is impulsivity.

Studies of brain mechanisms that involve motivation, reward and decision making have increased our psychological understanding of what happens in the brain around impulsivity.

We know that frontal lobes of the brain, which are responsible for thinking through the consequences of how we behave and what we do, are not fully developed until the mid to late twenties.

This is one of the reasons why we see riskier behaviours in the young.

Neuroscientists think that this immaturity almost certainly increases the vulnerability of adolescents and young adults to addictive behaviours such as problem and pathological gambling.

There is an urgent need to protect young people from exposure to the risks of gambling."

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