Cocaine is an illegal drug in the United States made from the leaves of the South American coca plant. Cocaine is considered one of the most addictive substances on Earth. Cocaine use is associated with a rise in dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain. This increase can cause both intense pleasure and a strong desire to use more of the drug.

The act of gambling is defined as a deliberate choice to put money or valuables on the line for a desired, yet unpredictable future outcome. There are many overlapping neurological pathways between gambling and cocaine use, particularly related to addiction. Problem gambling is the inability to stop gambling in the face of dire circumstances or negative repercussions. Pathological gambling includes problem gambling characteristics in addition to a lack of impulse control that develops over time.

What’s the Connection Between Cocaine and Gambling Addiction?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), a comprehensive diagnostic tool developed by the American Psychiatric Association, there is a strong correlation between cocaine use and pathological gambling. To diagnose a patient with a pathological gambling disorder, they must meet at least five out of 11 diagnostic criteria. Pathological gambling criteria that overlap with cocaine use and other substance use disorders include:

  • Increased tolerance over time
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Escapist behavior
  • Lying/dishonesty
  • Loss of important relationships
  • Biological/genetic factors

When pathological gamblers and cocaine users received brain scans to determine which areas of the brain were active following a gambling reward or cocaine use, the scans showed similar brain regions were activated. Another recent study suggests that the part of the brain that regulates coordination, known as the cerebellum, is hyperactivated in rodent models of human addiction. These results implicate the importance of neural pathways in addiction and pave the way for improved treatment options in the future.

Cocaine Use and Gambling Addiction Statistics

In 2005, an estimated 80% of the United States population gambles at least once in their lives. While the vast majority of people never develop an addiction to gambling, the prevalence of problem gamblers is estimated to be 2-3% of all gamblers. Even less, pathological gamblers make up 1% of the gambling population.

In 2015, 867,000 Americans ages 12 and older met diagnostic criteria for a cocaine use disorder.

As more states legalize gambling inside and outside of casinos, there is a positive correlation with increased gambling addiction, and a negative correlation with the amount of funding states provide to address mental health and addiction-related issues.

Co-Occurring Conditions: Cocaine Use and Gambling Addiction

A co-occurring condition is any condition that exists simultaneously with another condition. In a study conducted in 1992, 15% of cocaine users seeking treatment also met diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling. This population exhibited a pathological gambling rate that was ten times higher than the community-at-large. In people living with a cocaine and gambling addiction simultaneously, treatment can be harder, but not impossible.

Signs of a Co-Occurring Addiction

Although more research exists on co-occurring alcohol use disorders and gambling addictions, there are many similarities with cocaine addiction. Gamblers use alcohol or cocaine use for some of the following reasons:

  • To cope with a gambling loss
  • To celebrate a gambling win
  • For addressing feeling shame or guilt
  • For cocaine’s stimulant properties to gamble for longer periods

People living with both addictions reported greater social problems, exhibited more sexually impulsive behaviors and were likelier to attempt suicide.

Treating Cocaine and Gambling Addiction, Together

Each person will need to address their addiction in different ways. Because addictions develop in people based on unique circumstances, there is no universal addiction treatment method. Some treatment methods work better for some people than they do for others. However, there are a variety of general treatment methods for co-occurring gambling and cocaine addiction, including:

Key Points: Cocaine and Gambling Addiction

Cocaine and gambling addictions can often occur together. Both addictions are dangerous in their unique ways, but together they can be devastating for the physical health and financial stability of an individual. Keep the following key points in mind regarding the two types of addictions:

  • Cocaine use and gambling addiction activate similar pathways in the brain
  • The diagnostic criteria for cocaine and gambling addictions significantly overlap
  • Gambling addiction can co-occur with cocaine use
  • Co-occurring cocaine and gambling addiction can be treated together

If you or a loved one live with co-occurring cocaine and gambling addictions, The Recovery Village can help. You can receive comprehensive treatment for these co-occurring conditions from one of our facilities located throughout the country. To learn more about treatment programs, call The Recovery Village to speak with a representative today.

    

The American Journal on Addictions. “Cocaine Abuse and Pathological Gambling.” Accessed April 23, 2019.

American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5).” Accessed April 22, 2019.

Current Biology: Cell Press. “What does the cerebellum really do?” October 9, 2007. Accessed April 23, 2019.

Curr Opin Neurobiol. “Neurobiology of Gambling Behaviors.” March 29, 2013. Accessed April 22, 2019.

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. “Acupuncture for the Treatment of Opiate Addiction.” February 22, 2012. Accessed April 23, 2019.

Frontiers in Psychiatry. “Impulse Control Disorders: Updated Review of Clinical Characteristics and Pharmacological Management.” February 21, 2011. Accessed April 23, 2019.

Indian J Psychol Med. “Reviewing Two Types of Addiction – Pathological Gambling and Substance Use.” March 2012. Accessed April 22, 2019.

ISRN Addict. “Illicit Drug Use and Problem Gambling.” August 25, 2013. Accessed April 23, 2019.

National Institutes of Health. “Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.” July 2018. Accessed April 23, 2019.

National Institutes of Health. “Substance Use and Mental Health.” Accessed April 23, 2019.

National Institutes of Health. “What is cocaine?” July 2018. Accessed April 22, 2019.

SAMHSA. “Latest Survey Results.” 2016. Accessed April 22, 2019.

ProPublica. “The Bad Bet: How Has the “Crack Cocaine of Gambling” Affected Illinois? The State Hasn’t Bothered to Check.” February 20, 2019. Accessed April 23, 2019.

American Association for the Advancement of Science. “Cerebellar modulation of the reward circuitry and social behavior.” January 18, 2019. Accessed April 23, 2019.

Sci Pract Perspect. “The Neurobiology of Cocaine Addiction.” December 2005. Accessed April 22, 2019.

Scientific American. “How the Brain Gets Addicted to Gambling.” November 2013. Accessed April 23, 2019.

SAMHSA. “Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders.” April 13, 2019. Accessed April 23, 2019.

Washington University in St. Louis. “Washington University researchers assessing rates and risks of gambling.” December 6, 2005. Accessed April 23, 2019. 

5.0
02