There is a well-established association between pathological gambling and substance use disorders in adolescents. The aim of this study was to shed light on the association between adolescents’ different levels of involvement in gambling activities and substance use (smoking tobacco and cannabis and drinking alcoholic beverages), based on a large sample.
A survey was conducted in 2013 on 34,746 students attending 619 secondary schools, who formed a representative sample of the Italian 15- to 19-year-old population. The prevalence of different categories of gamblers was estimated by age group and gender. A multiple correspondence analysis (CA) was conducted to explain the multivariate associations between substance use and gambling.
The prevalence of problem gambling was 2.7% among the 15- to 17-year-olds, and rose to 3.6% among the 18- and 19-year-olds. Multiple CA revealed that, even when it does not reach risk-related or problem levels, gambling is associated with the use of alcohol and tobacco. In particular, the analysis showed that non-problem gambling levels were associated with alcohol and tobacco use at least once in the previous month, and that higher-risk gambling levels related to the use of cannabis and episodes of drunkenness at least once in the previous month.