Dr. Jon Grant, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota and co-director of the Impulse Control Disorders Clinic at the University of Minnesota, will be leaving Minnesota to become the director of addiction research at the University of Chicago. Dr. Grant has made significant contributions to the field of gambling research during his combined 11 years in Minnesota. We caught up with Dr. Grant for a few moments prior to his leaving to reflect on the progress that’s been made in the field and how he sees it evolving in the future.
What have you found to be the most interesting part of your research with problem gambling over your time here?
I think the most interesting – and rewarding – part of the research is how well gamblers can ultimately do. As devastating an illness as it is, it’s very rewarding to work with gamblers because when they do all the work, which is hard, and when they do all the therapy and everything else, they can do well, which is wonderful.
Do you think this is more the case with gambling than other addictions?
Yes, I think they probably can do better.
What are some of the biggest trends you’ve seen in problem gambling research in your time here?
I think the biggest trends right now involve looking beyond the symptoms and behavior to really trying to understand and think about problem gambling on all levels, including genetics, brain biology, development, etc. In other words, to really understand the “causes” of gambling problems. And I think that’s because the people who do this research around the world are very committed to really understanding gambling and helping people with this kind of problem, although the amount of research that’s being done is far less than for other addictions. It’s a very hard-working crowd of researchers around the country and around the world.
What do you see as the next frontier in problem gambling research?
I think the next frontier is what you might call “personalized medicine,” the idea of not grouping all gamblers together with a one-size-fits-all approach. And trying to determine how efficiently and accurately we can really understand the differences between people with gambling problems so that we can target treatment more effectively.
How will your work focus be changing?
It really won’t be a change in any huge way. I’ll still be doing research, largely on gambling, as well as other addictions. I think the difference is that it’s a much bigger city with different forms of gambling, different socio-economic issues that affect gambling, different ethnic racial groups, etc. So it’s basically the same thing I’ve been doing but on a slightly bigger stage.
What parting words might you have for those who care about problem gambling in Minnesota?
Minnesotans can be very proud of everything that’s being done for gambling, both in understanding it, funding for research, and the high quality of gambling treatment for people who otherwise couldn’t receive it. I think Minnesota has historically been a leader in problem gambling and will continue to lead the way. My hope is that the political powers in the state recognize what a valuable treasure this is in Minnesota.