Alcohol and gambling can be a dangerous combination. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, people who abuse alcohol are more likely to have problems with gambling when compared to those who do not engage in risky drinking. It is not uncommon to see co-occurring gambling and alcohol addiction. While alcohol is available at casinos and may be seen as a normal part of an evening out, it can become problematic for some gamblers.
The Relationship Between Alcohol and Gambling
Alcohol abuse and gambling addiction can occur together. Experts reported that issues with brain functioning could be responsible for the relationship between alcohol abuse and gambling addiction, as these brain dysfunctions could cause both problems. There is also some evidence that psychological disorders, such as ADHD, could contribute to both alcohol abuse and gambling, or that traits such as impulsivity can cause both issues.
One study found that among those with gambling disorder, immigrants and those who are unemployed but have lower levels of education are at greater risk of developing alcohol dependence. Among those addicted to gambling, those who consume more alcohol are also more likely to have other mental health issues and are more likely to abuse drugs.
Dangers of Alcohol and Gambling
Regardless of the cause of comorbid alcohol abuse and gambling, the combination of the two can be risky. When under the influence of alcohol, a person loses his or her inhibitions and therefore may be more likely to engage in excessive gambling. If a person becomes intoxicated while gambling, he or she may lose track of how much money they spend and may continue gambling despite losing a significant amount of money. Alcohol can, therefore, perpetuate and exacerbate gambling addiction.
The research confirms that alcohol abuse can be dangerous for those who gamble. Problem gamblers who drink more alcohol tend to be less functional. Another study found that alcohol abuse could be deadly for gamblers: Among risky gamblers, those who consumed the most alcohol were more likely to have thoughts of suicide.
Similarities Between Alcohol and Gambling Addiction
Alcohol abuse and gambling addiction share similar features as both are considered to be an addiction. Alcohol addiction represents addiction to a chemical substance, whereas gambling addiction is an addictive behavior. In both cases, a person loses control. With alcohol abuse, the person loses control over alcohol consumption, whereas with gambling addiction the person gambles compulsively.
Research shows that both gambling addiction and substance use disorders such as alcohol addiction are associated with weak performance on mentally challenging tasks, especially those involving impulse control. Gambling and substance addiction are also both linked to impaired functioning in specific areas of the brain and malfunctions in the neurotransmitters that send messages in the brain. Alcohol and gambling addictions both seem to negatively impact brain functioning.
Alcohol and Gambling Statistics
Statistics on alcohol and gambling provide insight into the extent of the relationship between alcohol and gambling addiction. The statistics show the following:
- During their lifetimes, 0.42% of people struggle with addiction to gambling.
- Nearly three-fourths of those with a gambling addiction also meet criteria for an alcohol use disorder.
- The link between alcohol and gambling addiction is stronger among men when compared to women.
Alcohol and Gambling Addiction Treatment
People who find themselves unable to stop drinking and gambling despite negative consequences may have an addiction. When a person experiences co-occurring alcohol and gambling addictions, treatment should address both concerns. Behavioral therapies can treat addiction to gambling and help people to learn more functional ways to cope with stressors.
Treatment for alcohol addiction may involve detoxification/withdrawal management, medications, individual counseling, and group therapy. Depending upon the severity of the alcohol and gambling addiction, treatment may occur on an inpatient basis in a hospital setting or rehabilitation facility, or it may consist of outpatient services within the community.
Key Points: Alcohol and Gambling
The following statements are key points that pertain to the relationship between alcohol and gambling:
- Alcohol abuse is associated with problem gambling.
- Abusing alcohol can be risky for someone who is addicted to gambling, as it can worsen gambling behaviors and result in unwanted consequences, such as suicide.
- Alcohol use disorders are highly prevalent among those who are addicted to gambling.
- Alcohol and gambling addiction seems to be more likely among men compared to women.
- A person who is unable to stop drinking and gambling might have an addiction, which will require treatment.
If you or a loved one lives with an addiction to gambling and alcohol, The Recovery Village can provide comprehensive treatment services to address both conditions. Reach out today to discuss treatment options and take the first step toward recovery. You deserve a healthier future.
Grant, Jon., et al. “Pathological gambling and alcohol use disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, November 2002. Accessed May 19, 2019.
Del Pino, Gutierrez, et al. “Impact of alcohol consumption on clinical aspects of gambling disorder.” International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, April 2017. Accessed May 19, 2019.
Hyoun, K., et al. “A dangerous cocktail: Alcohol consumption increases suicidal ideations among problem gamblers in the general population.” Addictive Behaviors, April 2016. Accessed May 19, 2019.
Leeman, Robert, and Potenza, Marc. “Similarities and differences between pathological gambling and substance use disorders: A focus on impulsivity and compulsivity.” Psychopharmacology, January 2012. Accessed May 19, 2019.
Petry, N.M. “Comorbidity of DSM-IV pathological gambling and other psychiatric disorders: Results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, May 2005. Accessed May 19, 2019.