Gambling Disorders 360°

Exploring the latest news, issues and research relating to gambling disorders and responsible gaming

Division on Addictions at Cambridge Health Alliance

From 1996 through 2009, the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) and the Institute supported the groundbreaking research of the Division on Addictions. Prior to 2000, this support was provided through project grants. From 2000 through 2009, the Division’s research on pathological gambling and related disorders was supported by a multimillion-dollar grant from the NCRG. In total, the Division received more than $7 million from the NCRG from 1996-2009. The Division is directed by Dr. Howard Shaffer, associate professor of psychology in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Research conducted by the Division on Addictions has resulted in seminal findings on the prevalence of gambling disorders in the U.S. and Canada; the health risks of casino employees; the first national study of college gambling behaviors and institutional policies; a framework for understanding gambling as a public health issue; an innovative brief intervention for individuals concerned about their gambling; the nature of addiction; and the impact of new gaming opportunities on communities, among many other research advances.

Division research has been published in the Journal of Gambling Studies, Harvard Review of Psychiatry, Canadian Journal of Public Health, Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Psychiatry of Addictive Behaviors, Journal of Adolescent Health, Journal of American College Health, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, Occupational Medicine, Research Quarterly on Exercise and Sport, Addiction, Harm Reduction Journal, Psychiatric Services, Journal of Social Psychology, Annual Review of Public Health and Journal of Consulting Clinical Psychology.

The Division’s current research agenda is focused on (1) testing the effectiveness of interventions for gambling disorders: the Missouri self-exclusion program and the self-help guide, Your First Step to Change; (2) the study of a national dataset with gambling information to establish the distinctions between disordered gamblers who are regressing and those who are improving; (3) analysis of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) to identify a set of problems people characteristically experience during the development and worsening of gambling disorders and a different set of problems that are characteristic of people progressing away from problem gambling toward healthier behavior; and (4) an exploration of the scientific literature on lotteries and the use of multiple methods and measures when conducting gambling-related research.

For more information about the Division’s research, including a list of publications, visit

Principal Investigator: Howard J. Shaffer, Ph.D., C.A.S.

Howard Shaffer is associate professor of psychology in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Division on Addictions at Cambridge Health Alliance. Dr. Shaffer is licensed as a clinical psychologist in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and is certified by the National Register of Health Care Providers in Psychology and the American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders. He earned an undergraduate degree at the University of New Hampshire and a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Miami, Florida.

Dr. Shaffer’s research, writing and teaching have shaped how the health care field conceptualizes and treats the full range of addictive behaviors. His major research interests include the social perception of addiction and disease, the philosophy of science, impulse control regulation and compulsive behaviors, the nature of gambling and related behavioral disorders, addiction treatment outcomes, the natural history of addictive behaviors and psychiatric epidemiology of addictive behavior and psychiatric comorbidity. Throughout his career, he has written extensively about the treatment of addictive behaviors and the nature of addiction, including more than 200 chapters, journal articles and reviews.

Dr. Shaffer’s research team has received multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health, state governments, foundations and corporations. Shaffer is a past editor-in-chief of the Journal of Gambling Studies and Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. The NCRG recognized his pioneering contributions to the field of gambling studies with the 2007 NCRG Scientific Achievement Award in the senior investigator category.