Home > Gambling in Ireland: profile of treatment episodes from a national treatment reporting system.

Condron, Ita (2022) Gambling in Ireland: profile of treatment episodes from a national treatment reporting system. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 82, Summer 2022, pp. 9-10.

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A new Health Research Board (HRB) study examines 3,000 cases treated for problem gambling in Ireland between 2008 and 2019.1 The study published in May 2022 in the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine is the first Irish national study using routinely gathered health surveillance data to describe treated problem gambling.


Globally, problem gambling prevalence is estimated at between 0.1% and 5.8%.2 Problem gambling can have many negative consequences, including impacts on physical and psychological health and social functioning. The most recent Irish figures from 2022 show that almost one-half of the population (49%) engage in gambling, while the prevalence rate for problem gambling among the general population is 0.3%, indicating there are 12,000 people with problem gambling in Ireland.3 Little is known about gambling behaviour in Ireland4 and there is a need to better understand treatment uptake, as only a small proportion of people with problem gambling seek treatment.5


An analysis of episodes treated for problem gambling collected by the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS)6 was undertaken. The analysis was based on voluntary submission of data on problem gambling7 to the NDTRS. Included were episodes entering treatment between 2008 and 2019 (n=2999) where gambling was reported as a main or an additional problem.8 Variables of interest included service types accessed, demographics, socioeconomic information, referral and assessment details, current problems (up to five), and treatment history.

Key findings

The majority of cases were male (93.8%).

  • Just over one-half (52.7%) reported gambling as their sole problem, while 47.3% of cases were also associated with problem substance use.
  • The median age entering treatment was 34 years.
  • Just over one-third (35.4%) were in paid employment and more than one-half (53.8%) had completed secondary or third-level education.
  • The majority (86.1%) lived in stable accommodation.
  • The majority of cases were treated at inpatient settings (56.1%), followed by outpatient treatment (38.7%).
  • The most common source of referral to treatment was self-referrals (46.3%) and referrals from family/friends (20%). Referrals by health professionals were low: 6.9% were referred by general practitioners (GPs) and 4.4% by mental health professionals.

Gambling only and gambling along with substance use

Problem gambling frequently co-occurred with substance use (47.3%). The most common problem drugs reported alongside gambling were alcohol (85.6%), followed by cannabis (32.3%), cocaine (28%), and benzodiazepines (10.9%).

There were significant differences between those treated for gambling only and those treated for gambling and substance use.

  • Cases treated for gambling only were more likely to be in employment, have completed secondary or third-level education, and be living with dependent children. They were more likely to receive outpatient treatment and be referred by GPs or health professionals.
  • Cases treated for gambling and additional problem drug or alcohol use were more likely to have left school early, be unemployed, and 1 in 10 are likely to be homeless. They were more likely to attend inpatient services and be referred by another drug treatment service, outreach worker, or the legal system.


Problem gambling affects not just those who gamble but also those around them. The potential impact of parental gambling on children is evident with 1 in 5 cases living with dependent children. Furthermore, one-half of cases started gambling before the age of 17 years. This study provides insights into treated problem gambling nationally and highlights the need for a national database on gambling treatment to be established. A systematic approach to collecting and analysing data about those who seek treatment for problem gambling over time would improve understanding about why people present for treatment, improve referral pathways, and inform policy and planning.

1  Condron I, Lyons S and Carew AM (2022) Gambling in Ireland: profile of treatment episodes from a national treatment reporting system. Ir J Psychol Med, 1–8. Early online. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/36419/

2  Calado F and Griffiths MD (2016) Problem gambling worldwide: an update and systematic review of empirical research (2000–2015). J Behav Addict, 5(4): 592–613.

3  Mongan D, Millar SR, Doyle A, Chakraborty S and Galvin B (2022) Gambling in the Republic of Ireland: results from the 2019–20 National Drug and Alcohol Survey. Dublin: Health Research Board. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/35305/

4  Kerr A, O’Brennan J and Vazquez Mendoza L (2021) Gambling trends, harms and responses: Ireland in an international context. Maynooth: Maynooth University. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/33982/

5  Slutske WS (2006) Natural recovery and treatment-seeking in pathological gambling: results of two U.S. national surveys. Am J Psychiatry 163(2): 297–302.

6  The NDTRS is the national epidemiological surveillance system that reports on treated problem drug and alcohol use in Ireland. Established in 1990, the NDTRS is maintained by the National Health Information Systems (NHIS) of the Health Research Board on behalf of the Department of Health.

7  The primary purpose of the NDTRS is to capture data on problem drug and alcohol treatment. Service providers can voluntarily submit data where the main problem is a process addiction such as gambling, eating, spending, gaming/internet, sex or pornography.

8  The data reflect the number of entries into treatment in a calendar year, rather than the number of persons treated in that year.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Behavioural addiction
Intervention Type
Screening / Assessment
Issue Title
Issue 82, Summer 2022
September 2022
Page Range
pp. 9-10
Health Research Board
Issue 82, Summer 2022

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