Smoking Aces: Does Nicotine Impact Gambling Treatment Outcome?

Gambling is often glamorized in society. People who gamble are portrayed as wealthy, stylish, and powerful. In the movies and on television, gamblers are in the most luxurious casinos flanked by attractive fans. In most instances they are wearing fine suits and sipping expensive liquor. But in reality, the lives of people with problem gambling (PG) look very different. Individuals who are addicted to gambling face financial challenges as a result of their impulsive gambling and many times lose their careers, their homes, and even their families to gambling. Additionally, PG has been associated with high rates of mental health problems and other addictions, including nicotine. Some research has begun to emerge that suggests that nicotine dependence plays a role in the impulsive behavior of PG and can be detrimental to treatment outcome.

Brian L. Odlaug of the Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark wanted to test this theory. He recently led a study that evaluated how nicotine dependence affected treatment outcome in a sample of 385 individuals seeking help for PG. The participants were assessed for gambling frequency and nicotine usage before treatment and again 6 months posttreatment. Odlaug found that in his study, the majority of participants were smokers (63.4%).  At treatment onset, the smokers had more severe and frequent gambling behaviors and higher levels of psychological problems than the nonsmokers. “Daily tobacco use did not, however, significantly affect treatment completion or the number of days gambled at the 6-month post-treatment follow-up as we had hypothesized,” Odlaug said.

These findings demonstrate a relationship between the impulsive behaviors of PG and those of addiction, specifically with respect to nicotine addiction. Odlaug believes that even though the participants were volunteers, which might suggest that they were more motivated to complete treatment, the results still serve to debunk the theory that nicotine dependence can be detrimental to treatment outcome for PG. He thinks that future research that considers gambling urges and compulsions, rather than just gambling behaviors, could provide more information about the link between nicotine dependence, gambling, and long-term outcome.

Odlaug, B. L., Stinchfield, R., Golberstein, E., Grant, J. E. (2012). The relationship of tobacco use with gambling problem severity and gambling treatment outcome. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029812

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  • Ross

    September 12th, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    I have found that in general addicts do not typically have just one compulsive behavior. A lot of times you will discover that they have mutiple, and I think that smoking and gambling are two of the ones that are going to go hand in hand a good but of the time. Mybe it is the whole gambling environment that encourages more smoking, the fact that casinos and places where you will most likely find that kind of behavior are going to be open to smokers. You want the atmosphere to be relaxed and have that high roller type of feel, and for many people that is what smoking does for them. I have smoked before and heavily so I know what kind of power it can have over you.

  • TE

    September 12th, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    The very problem with addicts is that they are weak-they have no self control and they can get addicted to newer and related(to the old object of addiction) things a lot easier than others.And there is always that connection between smoking and gambling,maybe that has a role to play too.

  • will p

    September 13th, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    Here’s the way I have always thought about this
    Let’s say that you have a gambling man who alos enjoys his smokes. Ok so he goes to the casino and smokes a pack or so all the while gambling away his paycheck for the week, or the family nest egg, or his entire life savings for that matter, who knows. Anyway what sounds more dangerous to you: his smoking or his gambling away the security for himself and his family by blowing theough the money? To me it sounds like the gambling is the bigger problem that will impact more people and this is what I would wnat to change, this ga,bling addiction. I know that you can get sick and die from smoking, but that really only impacts one person and you are making that choice albeit not a wise one every time you light up a smoke. But when gambling you are creating this house of cards that can never survive and you will not only lose yourself but your entire life’s work and most likely your family too.

  • shannon

    September 13th, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    its never easy to get over one addiction when you still have another,I think all the addictions originate from the same thing in a person’s mind so working on all addictions rather than isolating one would be a better way if you ask me.

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