Urge to gamble in problem gamblers exposed to a casino environment

Abstract

Cue-reactivity has received increased attention in addiction research, though not for gambling in particular. We examined cue reactivity in 18 problem gamblers by accompanying them to a gaming casino and measuring their subjective urge to gamble over a 1-h period. Half of the sample was additionally exposed to a gambling-specific negative mood induction (NMI) manipulation via guided imagery. Overall, about two-thirds of the sample reported moderate to high-gambling urges during the casino exposure. Additionally, the NMI reduced cue-reactivity. Finally, gambling urges in both groups decreased over the course of the exposure sessions. These findings suggest that a majority of problem gamblers experience the urge to gamble when exposed to gambling cues and that the intensity of these urges decrease with time, especially in the presence of a gambling-relevant NMI. Cue exposure should be studied further as a potential tool in the treatment of problem gambling.

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