Drinking Doesn’t Decrease for Problem Gamblers in Treatment

Many occasional gamblers report engaging in excessive drinking behaviors when they gamble. “Among treatment-seeking pathological gamblers, comorbidity is also high, with 59% reporting lifetime histories of alcohol use disorders,” said Carla J. Rash of the University of Connecticut.  Rash and her colleagues wanted to find out if people with gambling problems and alcohol misuse would decrease their alcohol use while they underwent treatment for gambling. They said, “The high rates of drinking among non-pathological gamblers as well as among individuals who have developed gambling-related problems are concerning, given that quantity of alcohol use appears to be related to severity of gambling problems.”

The team evaluated 163 problem gamblers who also had alcohol use issues. They followed them through 36 weeks of treatment for gambling and found that the participants did decrease their drinking, but not as they expected. “A substantial decrease in average drinks per week was evident at treatment entry, particularly among the ever risky drinker group,” said the team. “Risky drinkers decreased weekly alcohol intake during the treatment period but appeared to escalate drinking slightly during the post-treatment period.”

The researchers noted that nearly half of the non-risky drinkers continued to drink throughout treatment. Additionally, they found that some of the gamblers who had not cited any drinking issues before treatment actually reported engaging in risky drinking behaviors after beginning treatment for gambling. The team added, “Ever-risky drinkers were younger, reported more alcohol-related problems, drank more frequently and intensely, and were less likely to adhere to gambling treatment.” Overall, they discovered that although drinking in general decreased at the time treatment began, it remained stable throughout the rest of the treatment period. They concluded by saying, “The overall decreased alcohol use is encouraging, but continued at-risk drinking among the sample suggests that further reductions in drinking would be beneficial.”

Rash, C. J., Weinstock, J., & Petry, N. M. (2011, September 19). Drinking Patterns of Pathological Gamblers Before, During, and After Gambling Treatment. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025565

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Rupert


    October 7th, 2011 at 3:13 AM

    If they’re being treated for gambling then that is what will reduce.How did they expect drinking to reduce in everybody?It would reduce in only those whose drinking was related or was dependent on gambling habit.I thought experts would think about this beforehand.

  • Jimmy


    October 7th, 2011 at 4:12 AM

    Alcohol may be a great band aid for some problems, but as far as I know it has never been a cure and should not be treated as one. Especially for an addict who already has other issues, Like in this study it will probably only make some of them even worse and more pronounced.

  • Joan


    October 7th, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    They are looking for a way to cope, compensate, and what do they do? They turn from one addiction to another. We see it all of the time. You kick one habit only to pick up another. Maybe treatment for addicts should not be so much about treating that one particular behavior but the essence of their addictive nature as a whole.

  • ted.d


    October 7th, 2011 at 11:35 PM

    you would think gambling and drinking go hand in hand but I’m surprised to see this study.controlling gambling not having an effect on drinking reduction is very unexpected for me.I have had a drinking problem in the past and quitting that was hard enough.those with two addictions need to watch out!

  • vonnie b

    vonnie b

    October 8th, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    my dad was a gambler and a drinker and believe me. . . one vice fed the other

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.