Binge-drinking and non-partner aggression are associated with gambling among Veterans with recent substance use in VA outpatient treatment

Abstract

Background
Gambling is relatively under-assessed in Veterans Affairs (VA) substance use disorder (SUD) treatment settings, yet shared characteristics with substance addiction suggest the importance of understanding how gambling behaviors present in Veterans seeking SUD care.

Method
We evaluated substance use, mental health, and violence-related correlates of past 30-day gambling among 833 Veterans (93% male, M age 48 years, 72% Caucasian) seeking treatment in VA outpatient mental health and SUD clinics who completed screening for a randomized clinical trial.

Results
A total of 288 (35%) Veterans reported past 30-day gambling. Among those who gambled, 79% had cravings/urges to gamble, whereas between 20%–27% of gamblers reported perceived relationship, legal, and daily life problems related to gambling, as well as difficulty controlling gambling. A logistic regression analysis revealed that age, recent binge-drinking, and non-partner physical aggression were associated with recent gambling.

Conclusions
Gambling was associated with binge-drinking and non-partner physical aggression, supporting potential shared characteristics among these behaviors such as impulsivity and risk-taking, which may complicate SUD treatment engagement and effectiveness. Findings support the need to screen for gambling in the VA, and to adapt treatments to include gambling as a potential behavioral target or relapse trigger, particularly among heavy drinking patients.

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