The Relationship Between Gambling and Alcoholism

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The Relationship Between Gambling and Alcoholism

Many people enjoy gambling without a problem, and the same goes for alcohol. Plenty of people can limit their drinking to avoid severe impairment and dependence. However, both alcoholism and gambling can become addictive, and combined, can contribute to each other’s potential for abuse. Today, our Palm Beach rehab is exploring the relationship between gambling and alcoholism.


Gambling Addiction Compared to Drug Addiction

Gambling addiction and alcoholism are two types of addictions that are ultimately characterized by the inability to control a particular behavior. For a person with gambling addiction, they’re unable to control their gambling. For a person with alcoholism or an alcohol use disorder, they’re unable to control their alcohol consumption.


Since the two conditions are often interlinked, knowing how each one works helps us understand how they contribute to one another. Also known as compulsive gambling, a person who has a gambling disorder struggles with an uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on their life.


People with gambling addictions usually show the same signs of compulsive gambling, such as financial problems. Despite how many times a person with a gambling addiction loses, they’ll continue to gamble because of the thrill they receive from a win, no matter how rare or short-lived. An addiction to gambling stems from the thrill that the person feels from gambling something important for an even bigger “prize.”


An alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction is the result of prolonged alcohol abuse. Like people who are addicted to gambling, people with alcoholism may continue to drink despite its impact on their lives. The two are similar and considered addictions for this same reason.


Additionally, not only does the thrill of risking a lot for more make gambling so addicting, but gambling also impacts the brain the same way alcohol and drugs do.


Dopamine plays a huge role in the development of substance use disorders and addictions like gambling addiction. When a person uses drugs or alcohol, dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain are activated. However, dopamine is among the most impactful because of its role in pain, pleasure, and reward.


This release of dopamine is what produces euphoria and other feel-good side effects, which reinforces future drug use. The same goes for any other activity we may enjoy, such as eating and gambling. While not everyone abuses gambling to the point where they become addicted, those who do abuse gambling experience a rush of dopamine when they gamble, which contributes to a developed and uncontrollable compulsion to continue at all costs.


What Is the Relationship Between Gambling and Alcoholism?

Alcohol is considered one of several drugs that can cause gambling addiction. However, this is a rougher way of saying that alcoholism and gambling are connected. No evidence suggests a clear cause-and-effect relationship between alcoholism and gambling. In other words, not all people with alcoholism develop a gambling addiction, and not all people with gambling addictions develop alcoholism. However, the two do share a relationship.


An alcohol use disorder and a gambling disorder can co-occur or present themselves in one person at the same time. Research shows that there’s a high rate of comorbidity between substance use disorders and gambling addiction. One particular study found that 73.2% of people in the U.S. have a gambling disorder and alcohol use disorder, making it the most frequently reported comorbid condition in the nation.1


The same study found that “drunk gambling” or drinking large amounts of alcohol while gambling is common among many compulsive gamblers. 73% of regular video lottery terminal (VLT) gamblers said they prefer to drink alcohol while gambling, and up to 80% of gamblers without a gambling disorder diagnosis reported drinking four to ten alcoholic drinks during their last gambling session.1


This tells us that a good portion of gamblers like to drink while they gamble, but why? Alcohol not only affects dopamine release, but it also produces a high or “buzz,” which is usually the main reason people drink. This alcohol buzz combined with gambling’s impact on dopamine work together to enhance the individual’s experience.


But combining alcohol and gambling also presents a variety of problems. Alcohol contributes to a loss of control over gambling, severe gambling problems, a higher risk of developing mental illness, impaired completion and adherence to gambling treatment, and an increased risk of gambling.


So, the social norm of drinking alcohol while gambling combined with its physical side effects further worsens the person’s gambling disorder and even increases the risk of developing this condition in people who haven’t been diagnosed.


Alcohol and Gambling Addiction Help

Because alcoholism is the most common co-occurring disorder with gambling addiction, it’s important to understand the nature of their relationship to develop the best treatment. Fortunately, you can find this treatment at Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches.


In addition to dual diagnosis treatment, we also provide condition-specific treatment to address the individual factors of the patient’s gambling disorder and alcoholism. Our gambling treatment utilizes therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to address the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their disorder.


On the other hand, our alcohol treatment works to address the physical and mental impact of chronic drinking. Patients who receive substance-specific treatment of this nature usually undergo a medically monitored detox beforehand to safely recover from withdrawal symptoms.


If you’re searching for an alcohol and gambling addiction rehab for yourself or a loved one, BHOPB is here to help. For years, our Palm Beach addiction center has helped people with mental and substance use disorders recover and regain control of their lives.


Recovery is possible. Call us today at 561-220-3981 to learn how our addiction and mental health rehab in Florida can help.


Related Reading:

Connection Between Bipolar Disorder and Gambling

How to Stage an Intervention for a Gambling Addict



  1. NCBI – People with gambling disorder and risky alcohol habits benefit more from motivational interviewing than from cognitive behavioral group therapy

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