Can Drugs Cause Gambling Addiction?

Can Drugs Cause Gambling Addiction?

Have you been noticing that either yourself or a friend has been constantly drawn to gambling ever since they've started taking a new medication or experimenting with drugs? Despite how unlikely the link between the two, sounds you’re not going crazy. This a real phenomena that the FDA has studied and reported.

Understanding Problematic Gambling Behavior

Before delving into the specifics, it's essential to understand what constitutes problematic gambling behavior potentially caused by drugs. Problematic gambling, also known as gambling addiction or pathological gambling, is a serious condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide. It is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to gamble despite negative consequences, leading to severe financial, social, and psychological problems.

While various factors can contribute to the development of gambling addiction, certain prescription medications have been found to amplify harmful gambling behaviors. These medications, which are commonly prescribed for other health conditions, can inadvertently increase the risk of developing disordered gambling behavior.

Recognizing the Signs of Compulsive Gambling

It is essential to recognize the signs of compulsive gambling to seek timely help and support. Some common symptoms may manifest if a drug causes gambling addiction which include:

  1. Persistent thoughts about gambling and the desire to gamble more frequently.
  2. Difficulty controlling or stopping gambling activities.
  3. Gambling with increasing amounts of money to achieve the desired excitement.
  4. Restlessness or irritability when attempting to cut back or stop gambling.
  5. Chasing losses and engaging in risky behaviors to recoup gambling losses.
  6. Neglecting personal and professional responsibilities due to gambling.
  7. Lying to family and friends about gambling activities.
  8. Experiencing financial difficulties as a result of gambling losses.
  9. Feeling a sense of emptiness or depression when not gambling.

If you or someone you know exhibits these signs, it is crucial to seek professional help from addiction specialists or support groups dedicated to gambling addiction recovery.

Types of Drugs Connected with Causing Gambling Addiction

Dopamine Agonists: A Risk for Gambling Addiction

Dopamine agonists are a class of medications often prescribed to treat Parkinson's disease and restless leg syndrome. These drugs work by stimulating dopamine receptors in the brain. However, research has shown that dopamine agonists can also increase the risk of disordered gambling behavior.

The connection between these medications and gambling addiction was first discovered when sleep doctors noticed impulsive gambling behavior in patients with restless leg syndrome. Subsequent studies confirmed the association, with up to 8% of patients taking dopamine agonists reporting problematic gambling behaviors.

Antipsychotics: Aripiprazole and Gambling Problems

Atypical antipsychotics, such as aripiprazole, are commonly prescribed to manage bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. While these medications effectively manage symptoms of these conditions, they have also been linked to an increased risk of disordered gambling behavior. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology found that patients taking aripiprazole had higher rates of severe gambling problems compared to others. This association highlights the need for close monitoring and awareness of potential side effects when prescribing antipsychotics.

Stimulants and the Complex Relationship with Gambling Behavior

Stimulant medications, commonly prescribed for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, have generally been deemed safe and effective. However, specific stimulants, such as methylphenidate and amphetamines, have been associated with an increased risk of disordered gambling behaviors. Understanding the relationship between stimulants and gambling addiction is challenging due to the frequent comorbidity of ADHD and Gambling Disorder. Untangling the causal relationship requires further research and individual assessment.

The Role of Dopamine in Gambling Addiction

It's essential to recognize the role of dopamine in how a drug causes gambling addiction. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in reward processing and motivation. When certain medications alter levels of dopamine in the brain, it can lead to an exaggerated response to rewards and an increased propensity for disordered gambling behaviors. While these medications may manage primary health conditions, their impact on dopamine levels may cause gambling addiction.

Identifying Medication-Related Gambling Problems

Recognizing medication-related impulse-control issues, such as when a drug causes gambling addiction, can be challenging for those already struggling with mental health disorders. However, if you or a loved one develops a gambling problem after starting a medication, it's crucial to seek support and guidance. Contacting healthcare professionals and organizations specializing in gambling addiction can help assess the correlation between the medication and the development of problematic gambling behavior.

The FDA's Response to Medication-Induced Gambling Addiction

The U.S. The FDA has responded to reports of medication that potentially causes gambling addiction. The FDA received numerous reports of antipsychotic medications causing side effects that may lead to gambling addiction, particularly those related to the drug aripiprazole.

In response, the FDA issued a safety communication to raise awareness and enhance warnings about impulse-control problems associated with these medications. The updated warnings now include information about the following risks:

  • Compulsive gambling
  • Hyper-sexuality
  • Binge eating
  • Shopping addiction.

Taking Action: Seeking Compensation and Support

If you believe that drug use causes your gambling addiction, it's important to explore your options for seeking compensation and support. Many individuals who have experienced gambling addiction potentially induced by drugs have filed lawsuits against the companies responsible for these medications.

These lawsuits aim to recover not only gambling losses but also damages for related expenses, emotional suffering, and possibly punitive damages. Consulting with legal professionals experienced in handling medication-induced gambling cases can provide guidance and assistance throughout the legal process.

Responsible Gambling and Prevention Efforts

Promoting responsible gambling practices and preventing gambling addiction are crucial components of addressing medication-induced gambling problems. Responsible gambling initiatives focus on educating individuals about the risks associated with gambling and providing tools for self-exclusion and website blocking.

Collaborations between government agencies, gambling operators, and advocacy organizations play a vital role in developing effective prevention strategies and raising awareness about the potential risks of gambling addiction.

Help and Resources for Gambling Addiction

If you are struggling with issues where a drug causes gambling addiction or know someone who is, there are various resources available to provide support and assistance. Here are some helpful options:

  • Help For Gamblers: Organizations such as the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ) provide resources and treatment options for individuals struggling with gambling addiction. They offer helplines, online self-exclusion programs, and support for friends and family members affected by issues where a drug causes gambling addiction.
  • Block Gambling Websites: Tools like GAMBAN and Betblocker can help individuals block access to gambling websites, reducing the temptation to engage in compulsive gambling behaviors.
  • Find a Meeting: Support groups and meetings, such as those provided by CCGNJ, offer a safe space for individuals to share their experiences and receive support from others facing similar challenges.
  • Treatment List: A comprehensive list of providers specializing in situations where drug use causes gambling addiction is available to help individuals find the appropriate professional support.
  • CPR School Prevention Program: CCGNJ offers a cognitive perspective restructuring program aimed at preventing compulsive gambling behaviors in schools and educational institutions.
  • Information and Resources: CCGNJ provides a wealth of information and resources on responsible gambling, research findings, videos, podcasts, webinars, and articles to raise awareness and educate the public about gambling addiction.


While prescription medications have revolutionized the treatment of various health conditions, it's crucial to be aware of the potential risks associated with certain drugs. Medications like dopamine agonists, antipsychotics, and stimulants have been linked to an increased risk of gambling addiction. Understanding the role of neurotransmitters like dopamine in reward processing and motivation helps shed light on the mechanism behind medication-induced gambling problems.

By raising awareness, providing support, and promoting responsible gambling practices, we can minimize the negative impact of medication-induced gambling addiction and enhance patient outcomes.


National Library of Medicine - Medication Management of Pathological Gambling - PMC

Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services - Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services

National Library of Medicine - Increased risk for developing gambling disorder under the treatment ...

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