Drs. Howard Shaffer and Matt Hall’s research examined gambling and drinking behaviors among casino employees. They found that some employees with gambling and drinking problems showed the capacity to reduce these problematic behaviors over time. This challenges the conventional belief that gambling problems always progress to the most disordered state.

Shaffer, H.J. & Hall, M.N. (2002). The natural history of gambling and drinking problems among casino employees. The Journal of Social Psychology, 142, 405-424.

Dr. Wendy Slutske examined data from national twin studies conducted in 1962 and 2002 to assess whether environmental changes, including the expansion of legalized gambling, had influenced the genetic and environmental factors contributing to individuals’ propensity to gamble. Despite significant changes in the gambling landscape over four decades, the study found no significant difference in the relative importance of genetic and environmental factors.

Slutske, W. (2018). Has the genetic contribution to the propensity to gamble increased? Evidence from national twin studies was conducted in 1962 and 2002. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 21, 119-125.

Led by Dr. Clayton Neighbors, a team developed an online intervention specifically for college students using personalized normative feedback (PNF). This intervention aimed to correct misperceptions by showing students that their gambling behavior was atypical compared to actual norms. The study demonstrated a reduction in gambling behaviors among participants.

Neighbors, C., Rodriguez, L.M, Rinker, D.V., Gonzales, R.G., Agana, M., Tackett, J.L., & Foster, D.W. (2015). Efficacy of personalized normative feedback as a brief intervention for college student gambling: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83, 500-511.

Researchers developed a novel rat gambling task (rGT), inspired by the “Iowa” gambling task (IGT) used to measure gambling-like behavior. This animal model contributes to our understanding of the neural and neurochemical underpinnings of gambling disorder and the potential use of pharmaceuticals in its treatment.

Zeeb, F.D., Robbins, T.W., & Winstanley, C.A. (2009). Serotonergic and dopaminergic modulation of gambling behavior as assessed using a novel rat gambling task. Neuropsychopharmacology, 34(10), 2329-2343.

In a study led by Dr. Ronald Kessler at Harvard, data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), a highly regarded U.S. household survey, were analyzed. The research assessed lifetime gambling symptoms, pathological gambling, and other psychiatric disorders. The findings revealed a pathological gambling rate of 0.6% among over 9,000 adults surveyed. Notably, many individuals with gambling issues had never received professional treatment; however, 49.0% received treatment for other mental health concerns.

Kessler, R.C., Hwang, I., LaBrie, R., Petukhova, M., Sampson, N.A., Winters, K.C., & J. Shaffer, H.J. (2008). The prevalence and correlates of DSM-IV Pathological Gambling in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Psychological Medicine, 38(9), 1351–1360. doi:10.1017/S0033291708002900.

A collaboration between the Division on Addictions at Cambridge Health Alliance and the Harvard College Alcohol Study analyzed data from a survey conducted in 2001. The study focused on gambling habits among college students and found that 42% of students had gambled in the past year, with 2.6% gambling weekly during the school
year. Comparatively, the study highlighted that more adults engage in gambling. Additionally, the study found that only 26 schools had gambling policies, highlighting a missed opportunity to address student gambling issues.

The findings of this study were published in the Journal of American College Health (2003), Harm Reduction Journal (2005), and Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport (2007).

In a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) study, researchers used brain imaging to connect human brain activity to ideas from behavioral economics. Led by Hans Breiter, M.D., the research team discovered that monetary rewards activate a part of the brain that responds to other rewards, like drugs and food. This study was the first to show that
receiving financial compensation in a gambling-like experiment triggers brain activity similar to that of a cocaine addict receiving cocaine.

The research findings were published in Neuron in 2001.

In Reno, Nevada, several years ago, Alex Blaszczynski, Robert Ladouceur, and Howard Shaffer came together to discuss the importance of a strategic framework for responsible gaming policy. Through ongoing conversations and exchanges of emails, they developed a paper called “Science-based Framework for Responsible Gambling: The Reno Model.” The authors call upon various stakeholders, including health providers, scientists, the gaming industry, elected officials, regulators, community organizers, and consumers, to unite and address gambling-related issues. Like the influential 1949 Boulder conference that established the “Boulder Model” for clinical psychology training, the Reno Model aims to provide a strategic framework to guide the development of responsible gambling initiatives and foster discussions on responsible gambling concepts.

The paper was published in the Journal of Gambling Studies in 2004.

This study aimed to explore the development of youth gambling by building on previous research led by Ken Winters. It was among the first to investigate how young individuals’ gambling behaviors evolve as they transition into young adulthood.

The researchers assessed young adults to understand their long-term gambling involvement and its impact on their psychosocial well-being. They also examined the connection between earlier gambling experiences during underage years and their current outcomes in terms of psychosocial functioning. Additionally, the study proposed a developmental model to explain youth gambling involvement. The study’s findings provided valuable insights into the trajectory of early-onset gambling.

The results of this study were published in the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors in 2001.

This study was the first clinical trial investigating the use of naltrexone for individuals with gambling disorders. Naltrexone is a medication commonly prescribed to reduce alcohol cravings. Dr. Suck Won Kim and his team from the University of Minnesota examined whether naltrexone could be effective and safe in treating pathological gambling. They hypothesized that naltrexone would help decrease the uncontrollable urges to gamble and actual gambling behavior. Their hypothesis was based on previous research indicating that opioids could reduce human urges and influence animal motivation.

The study enrolled thirty participants who met the criteria for pathological gambling. They underwent a one-week single-blind placebo lead-in treatment and a twelve-week double-blind treatment with either naltrexone or a placebo. The study demonstrated that naltrexone effectively reduced cravings and diminished gambling urges. The positive
outcome of the investigation led to a grant of $464,463 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to expand the pilot program.

The findings of this pilot study were published in Biological Psychiatry and International Clinical Psychopharmacology in 2001.