As online opportunities for gambling increase, there is an increased need to understand the many aspects of pathological gambling. Those who suffer from pathological gambling exhibit many of the same symptoms as those found in other addictions. For instance, family and social connections, employment and academic achievement are all sacrificed in the interest of meeting a compulsive need to gamble.
Many individuals who have a gambling problem often report that they struggle with other problem behaviors, such as abusing alcohol or other substances. Recently, a group of researchers examined the alcohol-related choices of those enrolled in treatment for gambling addiction (Rash et al., 2011).
The researchers analyzed the behaviors of 163 participants in a randomized clinical trial involving the use of psychotherapy to treat gambling addiction. The analysis was limited to those participants who reported alcohol use during the trial, which equated to 56 percent of the subjects.
Participants were asked to complete an exercise called the timeline followback procedure at the beginning of the study, then again at an 8-week and 24-week follow-up following treatment. The exercise asked for information about the participants’ alcohol use 12 weeks before treatment and at the 24-week follow-up.
The research team placed participants in either of two groups based on their responses. Ever-risky drinkers drank at least four drinks per day or 14 drinks each week for males, and at least three drinks per day or seven drinks per week for females. Non-risky drinkers never met the criteria for ever-risky drinking at any point during the study. There were 76 ever-risky drinkers and 87 non-risky drinkers.
The results of the analysis showed that amid risky drinkers, there was a decrease in alcohol consumption before entering treatment, but alcohol consumption increased after treatment was complete.
There was a notable change in at-risk standing for many of the participants. While 55 participants met criteria for at-risk drinkers before beginning treatment, 26 of those participants did not drink at a risky level after beginning treatment. In addition, 19 percent of those who were not considered as at-risk drinkers before beginning treatment engaged in at-risk drinking behaviors after treatment began.
The study’s findings show that those who seek out gambling treatment may be likely to decrease alcohol consumption while in treatment. However, there was also evidence that a small number of participants seemed to increase drinking while eliminating gambling behaviors. This may represent a situation in which participants are trading one addiction for another.