Discounting of probabilistic rewards is associated with gambling abstinence in treatment-seeking pathological gamblers

Abstract

AB Individuals with addictive disorders, including substance abusers and pathological gamblers, discount or devalue rewards delayed in time more than controls. Theoretically, preference for probabilistic rewards is directly related to gambling, but limited empirical research has examined probabilistic discounting in individuals with pathological gambling. This study evaluated probability and delay discounting in treatment-seeking pathological gamblers and their association with gambling treatment outcomes during and after treatment. At time of treatment entry, 226 pathological gamblers completed probability and delay discounting tasks. They were then randomized to one of three treatment conditions, and gambling behavior was measured throughout treatment and at a 1-year follow-up assessment. After controlling for possibly confounding variables and treatment condition, more shallow probability discounting was associated with greater reductions in amounts wagered during treatment and likelihood of gambling abstinence at the end of treatment and throughout the follow-up period. No associations were noted between delay discounting and gambling treatment outcomes. These data suggest that probability discounting may be an important construct in understanding pathological gambling and its treatment.

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