Background: Aripiprazole has been linked to cases of problem gambling (PBG), but evidence supporting this association remains preliminary. Additionally, data specific to PBG in individuals with first-episode psychosis (FEP) receiving aripiprazole are limited to a few case reports, even though aripiprazole is widely used among this population that might be especially vulnerable to PBG.
Methods: To examine this association, a nested case-control study was conducted in a cohort of 219 patients followed at a FEP program located in the Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, metropolitan area. Fourteen cases meeting the PBG criteria according to the Problem Gambling Severity Index were identified and matched for gender and index date to 56 control subjects.
Results: In the univariable conditional logistic regression analysis, the use of aripiprazole was associated with an increased risk of PBG (odds ratio [OR] 15.2; 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.1-670.5). Cases were more likely to have a prior gambling history (either recreational or problematic) than controls at admittance in the program; they were also more frequently in a relationship and employed. After adjustment for age, relationship status, employment and Cluster B personality disorders, the use of aripiprazole remained associated with an increased risk of PBG (OR 8.6 [95% CI 1.5-227.2]).
Conclusions: Findings from this study suggest that FEP patients with a gambling history, problematic or not, may be at increased risk of developing PBG when receiving aripiprazole. They also highlight the importance of systematically screening for PBG all individuals with psychotic disorders, as this comorbidity hinders recovery. While the results also add credence to a causal association between aripiprazole and PBG, further prospective studies are needed to address some of the limitations of this present study.