The WAGER, Vol. 3(14) – Screening veterans for pathological gambling


Individuals with substance abuse or other psychiatric disorders have been shown to have higher rates of pathological gambling disorders than individuals without psychiatric disorders1. During the past 3 years, researchers at a Veterans Administration Hospital routinely screened a sample of 250 veterans with substance abuse and/or other psychiatric disorders for lifetime pathological gambling disorders using the SOGS (South Oaks Gambling Screen)2. They found 16% (n=40) of these veterans screened positive for pathological gambling (a score of 5 or more) and 9% screened positive for “probable pathological gambling” (a score of 3 or 4). A medical record review of this sample revealed that prior to this study, only 1 had been diagnosed with pathological gambling disorder. In addition, among the subsample who had been previously admitted for inpatient psychiatric treatment, the group of pathological gamblers (scores of 5 or more) were compared with the group of veterans with no gambling problems (scores of 0). Compared to the no-problem group, pathological gamblers were admitted significantly more often for psychiatric problems and for drug or alcohol detoxification. Federman et al.’s estimates fall within the range revealed by a meta-analysis of prevalence studies, which observed patients in treatment had lifetime rates of disordered gambling of 14.23 (10.70-17.75).


1.  Shaffer, H.J., Hall, M.N., & Vander Bilt, J. (1997). Estimating the prevalence of disordered gambling behavior in the United States and Canada: A meta-analysis. Boston: President and Fellows of Harvard College;

2.  Federman, E.J., Krebs, C., Drebing, C.E., Colburn, N., Beaman, A., Marshall, J. & Penk, W. (1998, April). Gambling: An under-diagnosed and costly disorder. Poster session presented at the NIDA Town Meeting, Boston, MA .

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