Pathological gambling recovery in the absence of abstinence

Addiction. 2010 Dec;105(12):2169-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.03080.x. Epub 2010 Sep 20.


Aims: To examine the role of abstinence from gambling versus controlled gambling in recovery from pathological gambling (PG) in a community-based survey.

Design: Individuals with a life-time history of PG identified in a community-based survey were divided into three groups based on their current levels of PG symptoms. These three groups were compared to each other on their past-year gambling involvement.

Setting: National general population twin survey conducted in Australia.

Participants: Overall, there were 4764 participants in the community-based survey (mean age 37.7 years, 57.2% women). Among these were 104 participants with a life-time history of PG; of the 104 with a life-time diagnosis of PG, 28 had a past-year diagnosis of PG, 32 had past-year problem gambling and 44 had no symptoms of PG in the past year ('recovery').

Measurements: The measure of PG was based on the NODS (NORC DSM-IV Screen for Gambling Problems). Past-year participation in 11 different gambling activities was assessed, as well as the following composite indicators: any gambling, gambling versatility, the number of days and hours spent gambling and the proportion of household income spent on gambling.

Findings: Ninety per cent of those in the recovery group participated in some form of gambling in the past year.

Conclusions: In this general population survey, nearly all the PG recoveries were achieved in the absence of abstinence. Controlled gambling appears to be a popular road to recovery in the community.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology
  • Behavior, Addictive / rehabilitation*
  • Data Collection
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Gambling / epidemiology
  • Gambling / psychology
  • Gambling / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Remission, Spontaneous