Prediction of Alcohol and Gambling Problems in Young Adults by Using a Measure of Decision Making

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Abstract

Objectives:

Individuals who regularly gamble, regularly consume alcohol, or meet criteria for an alcohol-use disorder or pathological gambling may make riskier decisions on cognitive tasks. What remains unclear in the literature is whether these decision-making deficits precede or result from these addictive behaviors. This study aimed to determine whether risky decision making on a cognitive task is predictive of increasing gambling behaviors and alcohol use.

Methods:

Fifty-eight young adults (aged 18-29 years) free from Axis I disorders and reporting no symptoms of at-risk gambling behavior or alcohol consumption, who were participating in a longitudinal study of impulsivity, were grouped as either high-risk decision makers (n = 29) or low-risk decision makers (n = 29) by using the Cambridge Gamble Task. Subjects were assessed at 1-year follow-up to examine gambling frequency, alcohol consumption, at-risk alcohol-use criteria, alcohol-use disorder criteria, at-risk gambling criteria, and pathological gambling criteria.

Results:

High-risk decision makers were found to be more likely to meet at-risk criteria for alcohol use after 1 year. Decision-making group membership was not significantly correlated with frequency of gambling or development of pathological gambling or alcohol-use disorder over 1 year.

Conclusions:

A variable measuring risky decision making on the Cambridge Gambling Task may be able to predict who is more likely to increase alcohol use per session later in life.

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