A study of the dopamine D2 receptor gene in pathological gambling

Pharmacogenetics. 1996 Jun;6(3):223-34. doi: 10.1097/00008571-199606000-00004.


Pathological gambling has been termed both the 'pure' and the 'hidden' addiction. 'Pure' because it is not associated with the intake of any addicting substance, and 'hidden' because it is an extension of a common, socially accepted behaviour. The Taq A1 variant of the human DRD2 gene has been associated with drug addiction, some forms of severe alcoholism, and other impulsive, addictive behaviours. We have sought to determine if there is a similar association with pathological gambling. A total of 222 non-Hispanic Caucasian pathological gamblers from multiple sites across the US participated in the study. Of these 171 donated a sample of blood, 127 filled out several questionnaires, and 102 did both. Of the 171 pathological gamblers 50.9% carried the D2A1 allele versus 25.9% of the 714 known non-Hispanic Caucasian controls screened to exclude drug and alcohol abuse, p < 0.00000001, odds ratio (OR) = 2.96. For the 102 gamblers who filled out the questionnaires, 63.8% of those in the upper half of the Pathological Gambling Score (more severe) carried the D2A1 allele (OR versus controls = 5.03), compared to 40.9% in the lower half (less severe). Of those who had no comorbid substance abuse, 44.1% carried the D2A1 allele, compared to 60.5% of those who had comorbid substance abuse. Forty-eight controls and 102 gamblers completed a shorter version of the Pathological Gambling Score. Of the 45 controls with a score of zero, 17.8% carried the D2A1 allele. Of the 99 gamblers with a score of 5 or more, 52.5% carried the D2A1 allele (chi 2 = 15.36, p = 0.00009). These results suggest that genetic variants at the DRD2 gene play a role in pathological gambling, and support the concept that variants of this gene are a risk factor for impulsive and addictive behaviours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics
  • Alleles
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / genetics
  • Gambling*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / genetics*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3
  • Religion
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / genetics


  • DRD3 protein, human
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3