Drinking and gambling: A comparison with implications for the theories of addiction

Abstract

There is current concern about the level of excessive gambling in a number of countries, but problem gambling still occupies an uncertain place in the addictions field. The present paper presents results from a pilot study comparing 16 problem gamblers and 16 problem drinkers. Results from a new Attachment Questionnaire suggested that gamblers were just as strongly attached to gambling as drinkers to drinking, although they were significantly less likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. Interviews with the problem gamblers suggested that excessive attachment to gambling was maintained by cyclical processes involving strong, negative feelings associated with gambling losses, shortage of money and the need to keep the extent of gambling secret. It is proposed that these 'secondary' processes, along with primary incentive motivation and the tertiary effects of losses associated with excessive behaviour, are sufficient to explain addiction. It is further suggested that neuroadaptation, tolerance and withdrawal, often thought to be central to the process of addiction, may in fact be of comparatively little importance.

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