Investigating the association between strategic and pathological gambling behaviors and substance use in youth: Could religious faith play a differential role?


Objectives: This study investigated the link between gambling behaviors and the use of alcohol, drugs, and nonprescribed prescription medications, while exploring the moderating role of distinct religious faiths. Methods: In 2010, 570 students from the American University of Beirut completed a self-reported, anonymous English questionnaire, which included lifetime gambling and past-year substance use measures. Results: Half (55%) were lifetime gamblers, of whom, 12% were probable pathological gamblers. About 60% were strategic gamblers. Lifetime gamblers were more than twice as likely as nongamblers to report past-year illegal drug use and alcohol abuse. Probable pathological gamblers were also more than four times as likely as nongamblers to report nonmedical prescription drug use, illegal drug use, and alcohol abuse. Compared to nonstrategic gamblers, strategic gamblers had more than three times the odds of illegal drug and cigarette use. The link between alcohol abuse and gambling was stronger among Christians than Muslims. Conversely, Muslims were more likely to report the co-occurrence of various gambling behaviors (lifetime, probable pathological, and strategic gambling) with both illegal drug use and cigarette use. Conclusions: Gambling and substance use behaviors were strongly linked in this sample of youth from Lebanon, corroborating the evidence from North America. Particularly novel are the co-occurrence of pathological gambling and nonmedical prescription drug use and the potential differential role of religion. (Am J Addict 2014;23:280-287)

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