Pathological gambling recovery in the absence of abstinence


Wendy S. Slutske, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, 210 McAlester Hall, Columbia, MO 65211, USA. E-mail:


Aims  To examine the role of abstinence from gambling versus controlled gambling in recovery from pathological gambling (PG) in a community-based survey.

Design  Individuals with a life-time history of PG identified in a community-based survey were divided into three groups based on their current levels of PG symptoms. These three groups were compared to each other on their past-year gambling involvement.

Setting  National general population twin survey conducted in Australia.

Participants  Overall, there were 4764 participants in the community-based survey (mean age 37.7 years, 57.2% women). Among these were 104 participants with a life-time history of PG; of the 104 with a life-time diagnosis of PG, 28 had a past-year diagnosis of PG, 32 had past-year problem gambling and 44 had no symptoms of PG in the past year (‘recovery’).

Measurements  The measure of PG was based on the NODS (NORC DSM-IV Screen for Gambling Problems). Past-year participation in 11 different gambling activities was assessed, as well as the following composite indicators: any gambling, gambling versatility, the number of days and hours spent gambling and the proportion of household income spent on gambling.

Findings  Ninety per cent of those in the recovery group participated in some form of gambling in the past year.

Conclusions  In this general population survey, nearly all the PG recoveries were achieved in the absence of abstinence. Controlled gambling appears to be a popular road to recovery in the community.