Interventions for comorbid problem gambling and psychiatric disorders: Advancing a developing field of research

Abstract

Despite significant psychiatric comorbidity in problem gambling, there is little evidence on which to base treatment recommendations for subpopulations of problem gamblers with comorbid psychiatric disorders. This mini-review draws on two separate systematic searches to identify possible interventions for comorbid problem gambling and psychiatric disorders, highlight the gaps in the currently available evidence base, and stimulate further research in this area. In this mini-review, only 21 studies that have conducted post-hoc analyses to explore the influence of psychiatric disorders or problem gambling subtypes on gambling outcomes from different types of treatment were identified. The findings of these studies suggest that most gambling treatments are not contraindicated by psychiatric disorders. Moreover, only 6 randomized studies comparing the efficacy of interventions targeted towards specific comorbidity subgroups with a control/comparison group were identified. The results of these studies provide preliminary evidence for modified dialectical behavior therapy for comorbid substance use, the addition of naltrexone to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for comorbid alcohol use problems, and the addition of N-acetylcysteine to tobacco support programs and imaginal desensitisation/motivational interviewing for comorbid nicotine dependence. They also suggest that lithium for comorbid bipolar disorder, escitalopram for comorbid anxiety disorders, and the addition of CBT to standard drug treatment for comorbid schizophrenia may be effective. Future research evaluating interventions sequenced according to disorder severity or the functional relationship between the gambling behavior and comorbid symptomatology, identifying psychiatric disorders as moderators of the efficacy of problem gambling interventions, and evaluating interventions matched to client comorbidity could advance this immature field of study.

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