More people seeking help for addiction

Psychiatrists say most common cases involve those hooked on alcohol, gambling, sex

Psychiatrists in private practice have seen a jump in the number of people seeking help for addiction to alcohol, gambling and sex.

Around 25 new patients now seek help with addictions at the Winslow Clinic every month, set up by addictions specialist Munidasa Winslow, compared to 10 to 12 a year earlier.

Overall, including repeat cases, he sees about 200 addiction patients a month.

Alcohol addiction is the most common, followed by sex addiction, said Associate Professor Winslow, formerly from the Institute of Mental Health.

He has seen a sharp rise in the number of people seeking help for sex addiction, with four new cases a month compared to just one or two previously.

Whether to control cravings for alcohol, drugs, sex, gaming or sleeping pills, patient queues are definitely getting longer, he said.

"However, I still think we are just scratching the surface, with fewer than 1 per cent of those who need help seeking it," he said.

His patients are mostly working graduate men, though women make up a small proportion of those seeking help for alcohol problems.

Psychologist Kit S. Ng from The Center for Psychology, meanwhile, sees up to 30 addiction cases a month, a 40 per cent jump from 2009.

Dr Ng sees mostly sex and alcohol addiction cases, and nine in 10 of his patients are men.

Those seeking help for sex addiction range in age from the mid-30s to mid-50s, and comprise locals and expatriates who are highly educated professionals. Almost all are married men.

His alcohol addiction patients are in their 30s and 40s, of all races and generally middle class.

Psychiatrist Adrian Wang, who is seeing more alcohol and gambling addiction cases at his clinic, said: "As the cost of living rises and people get more stressed, some people may drink more than they should."

He did not think the casinos were to blame for the rise in cases of gambling addiction, but felt the easier access to gambling could cause "someone vulnerable to the disease to falter".

radhab@sph.com.sg

ailien@sph.com.sg

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