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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2005 Aug;29(8):1427-31.

Comparison of craving between pathological gamblers and alcoholics.

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Department of Psychiatry, Gambling Outpatient Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.



Craving is a central phenomenon in addiction. Temperament factors are also important for pathologic gambling and other addictions. The aim of this study was to compare craving between pathologic gamblers (PG) and alcohol-dependent subjects (ADS), correlating craving with personality.


Forty-nine PG and 101 ADS willing to start treatment were recruited. A trained psychiatrist diagnosed them according to DSM-IV criteria. To be included in this study, subjects had to be abstinent for at least five days and no longer than 21 days. Alcoholics should have no significant physical withdrawal symptoms by the time of craving assessment. Subjects with current comorbidity with other addictions were excluded, except nicotine. ADS rated craving for alcohol and PG rated craving for gambling on the same questions, respectively. Both answered a semistructured interview, the Temperament and Character Inventory and the Beck Scales for anxiety and depression.


Pathologic gamblers scored higher than ADS on craving measures (p<0.001) and novelty seeking (p=0.01). ADS scored higher in harm avoidance (p=0.01). Alcohol craving correlated positively with anxiety and novelty seeking and negatively with length of abstinence and persistence. Gambling craving correlated positively with depression and negatively with length of abstinence and reward dependence


Pathologic gamblers experienced stronger cravings than did ADS. This may be a disturbing experience for PG and a potential cause for relapse. The higher scores on novelty seeking concur with previous studies that associate PG and impulsivity. ADS higher scores on harm avoidance suggest anxiety vulnerability. The positive relation between alcohol craving, anxiety, and harm avoidance suggests that ADS rely on alcohol to deal with a proclivity to negative emotions. The positive relation of gambling craving to depression and negative relation to reward dependence suggests that individuals who have a lesser susceptibility to experience positive emotions are the ones who most miss gambling when abstaining.

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