Relationship of gambling with tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use among adolescents in the USA: Review of the literature 2000–2014

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Background and Objectives:

Adolescence is a time during which not only gambling, but also tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use, usually begin. The purpose of this paper is to provide an updated review of the literature on gambling and its associations with tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use among US youth.


An electronic literature search of PubMed and PsycInfo was conducted for studies since 2000 using the keywords “smoking,” “tobacco,” “nicotine,” “cigarette,” “gambling,“ “adolescence,” “adolescent,“ “alcohol,” and “substance use.” Ten articles with unique adolescent samples were located. Because the articles varied in regard to definitions of gambling, tobacco, alcohol, and drug use, we provide a qualitative review of included studies.


Gambling prevalence rates ranged from 44.3% to 68% in national telephone-based surveys, from 24.4% to 86% among students in school-based surveys, and from 22.5% to 47.4% in surveys of convenience samples. Significant associations were reported between gambling and tobacco use (4/7 articles), gambling and alcohol use (7/8 articles), and gambling and illicit drug use (7/8 articles).


The wide range in rates of gambling and problem gambling may be due in part to differences among the studies in participant samples, sampling techniques, assessment time frames, and definitions of gambling. Despite methodological differences, most studies showed significant associations of gambling with tobacco, alcohol, and other illicit drug use.

Scientific Significance:

As accessibility to gambling increases, more research is needed to inform prevention efforts and identify youth at-risk for gambling and other high-risk behaviors. (Am J Addict 2015;24:206–216)

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