Researcher tackles gambling disorders with UK network

People are often reluctant to seek the treatment they need.

A Federation University addiction and chronic illness researcher working with an international research network has co-authored a study on gambling disorders published in the prestigious journal The Lancet Psychiatry.

The publication of the National UK Research Network for Behavioural Addictions (NUK-BA) study comes as Professor Shane Thomas’ recently completed review of pharmacological treatments for problem gambling with an Australian and British team awaits publication in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the world’s leading evidence treatment review journal.

Professor Thomas joined Federation University last year as its Professor of Health Promotion and Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor in Research and Innovation. His two main research areas – chronic illness and behavioural addictions – have a significant impact on the health and well-being of people around the world and in Australia. Both will rely on shifts in the behaviour in individuals and larger populations for progress to be made.

“I’m fortunate to have some strong international collaborations in behavioural addictions. I have been working with researchers in the UK from our Behavioural Addictions Network. The NHS has recently revamped and expanded their addiction treatment services to focus on behavioural addictions,” Professor Thomas said.

“One of the misconceptions that people have of gambling addictions is that the people with them are doomed. This is not correct — treatments are effective and lasting for many people. Our major problem is that people are reluctant to seek the treatment they need, so they and their friends and families endure long periods of avoidable illness and disability.”

Professor Thomas said the chronic illness component of his research intersected with addiction and the issues around addiction because addiction is a chronic illness.

“People sometimes think they’re different, but I see them as very much aligned because there is a long-term condition that requires effective treatment,” he said.

“One in two Australians has a chronic illness, and nine out of 10 Australians die from one. There has been a rapid acceleration in the number of Australians with mental health conditions, and addictions are a burdensome aspect of many of these conditions.

“Anything that we can do to progress in this area has major benefits to the community in terms of improvement of health and well-being and also reducing the burden on health systems and healthcare costs.”

Professor Thomas’ National Health and Medical Research Council clinical guideline on problem gambling is used globally to guide treatment in the UK, US, Europe, Australia and China.

“I am working with the group developing the UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence gambling disorders guideline. I enjoy working with international partners. It ensures that your work is internationally competitive and also that we have the world’s best work available to assist Australians.”

Professor Thomas’ collaborations in China have seen him become a regular health issues commentator with China Radio International in Beijing.

“It's a huge audience, and it's a privilege to be invited to provide commentary on the health system development of such a large country. We have much to learn from each other”.

Professor Thomas said he enjoyed both the leadership and scientific components of his role and would continue building on the University's local and international relationships and partnerships and promoting and leading a robust research program in health and well-being at Federation.

“Federation is already doing excellent high-quality work, and we are capable of considerable growth in this area. I’m very much looking forward to working with Federation and the local communities we serve.”

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