A randomized controlled trial of brief interventions for problem gambling in substance abuse treatment patients

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2016 Oct;84(10):874-86. doi: 10.1037/ccp0000127. Epub 2016 Jul 11.


Objective: This study evaluated the efficacy of brief gambling treatments in patients attending substance abuse treatment clinics.

Method: Substance abuse treatment patients with gambling problems (N = 217) were randomly assigned to a 10- to 15-min brief psychoeducation gambling intervention; a 10- to 15-min brief advice intervention addressing gambling norms, risk factors, and methods to prevent additional problems; or 4 50-min sessions of motivational enhancement therapy plus cognitive behavior therapy for reducing gambling (MET + CBT). Gambling and related problems were assessed at baseline and throughout 24 months.

Results: In the sample as a whole, days and dollars wagered and gambling problems decreased markedly from baseline through Month 5; thereafter, reductions in dollars wagered and gambling problems continued to decrease modestly but significantly, and days gambled remained constant. Brief advice significantly reduced days gambled between baseline and Month 5 relative to brief psychoeducation. The MET + CBT condition engendered no benefit beyond brief advice in terms of days gambled but did lead to more precipitous reductions in dollars gambled and problems experienced in the initial 5 months, and greater clinically significant improvements in gambling in both the short and long term. MET + CBT also resulted in initial decreases in self-reported alcohol use and problems but did not differentially impact self-reported illicit drug use or submission of positive samples.

Conclusions: Gambling problems tend to dissipate over time regardless of the intervention applied, but offering MET + CBT was more efficacious in decreasing gambling than providing a brief single session intervention. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Webcast

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Gambling / psychology
  • Gambling / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivational Interviewing / methods
  • Psychotherapy, Brief / methods*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*