Despite previously found co-occurrence of youth gambling and alcohol use, their relationship has not been systematically explored in a national sample using DSM-based gambling measures and multivariate modeling, adjusted for potential confounders. This study aimed to empirically examine the prevalence patterns and odds of at-least-weekly alcohol use and heavy episodic drinking (HED) in relation to various levels of gambling severity in college athletes. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed on data from a national sample of 20,739 U.S. college athletes from the first National Collegiate Athletic Association national survey of gambling and health-risk behaviors. Prevalence of at-least-weekly alcohol use significantly increased as DSM-IV-based gambling severity increased, from non-gambling (24.5%) to non-problem gambling (43.7%) to sub-clinical gambling (58.5%) to problem gambling (67.6%). Multivariate results indicated that all levels of gambling were associated with significantly elevated risk of at-least-weekly HED, from non-problem (OR = 1.25) to sub-clinical (OR = 1.75) to problem gambling (OR = 3.22); the steep increase in the relative risk also suggested a possible quadratic relationship between gambling level and HED risk. Notably, adjusted odds ratios showed problem gambling had the strongest association with at-least-weekly HED, followed by marijuana (OR = 3.08) and cigarette use (OR = 2.64). Gender interactions and differences were also identified and assessed. In conclusion, attention should be paid to college athletes exhibiting gambling problems, especially considering their empirical multivariate associations with high-risk drinking; accordingly, screening for problem gambling is recommended. More research is warranted to elucidate the etiologic mechanisms of these associations.
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