Pathological gambling and comorbid substance use


  • Fiona Maccallum,

  • Alex Blaszczynski

Alex Blaszczynski, Professor (Correspondence)
Department of Psychology, Transient Building F12, University of ­Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. Email:
Fiona Maccallum, Clinical Psychologist, Psychological Medicine Program, Liverpool Hospital, Sydney, Australia


Objective:  The objective of this study was to determine the rates of substance use problems in a sample of diagnosed pathological gamblers seeking treatment in a university teaching hospital cognitive behavioural outpatient clinic.

Methods:  A semistructured interview schedule and the composite international diagnostic interview (CIDI-auto) were administered to assess substance dependence in a sample of 75 poker-machine gamblers meeting DSM-IV and South Oaks gambling screen (SOGS) criteria for pathological gambling. Both the self-reported rates and the proportion meeting criteria for a psychiatric disorder were determined.

Results:  The rates for substance use disorder within a sample of treatment-seeking pathological gamblers is higher as compared to general population figures. Gender differences were found with more current alcohol-abuse problems reported among male than female participants. Non-alcohol-related substance abuse was relatively lower than rates reported by other studies in the literature.

Conclusions:  Substance abuse is a common comorbid condition of pathological gambling and therefore should be screened for in routine clinical assessments. Failure to identify and treat comorbid substance-use disorders in gamblers may lead to higher relapse rates.