The aim of this survey was to evaluate the distribution of pathological gamblers treated in an alcohol or drug addiction treatment program run by the Italian National Health Service providing assistance to alcohol and drug abusers in Venice (North east Italy) from September 1 to December 31, 2001. Each drug- or alcohol-dependent patient retained for treatment for at least one month was administrated an anonymous precoded questionnaire to collect personal and socio-demographic features. The South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS) was used to measure pathological gambling and the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised (SCL-90-R) to measure psychological distress levels and psychiatric symptoms. Among the 113 enrolled subjects we found a greater prevalence of pathological gamblers among drug users than among alcoholics and drug abusers were younger than alcoholics; moreover, there was a prevalence of single status, low schooling, and a low-medium income despite full-time occupation. Only pathological gamblers revealed a significant positive correlation with a family history of gambling and reached positive scores (>1.5) for some likely psychiatric symptoms. Abuse disorders and pathological gambling are frequently associated with multidependence personality traits. Preventing substance abuse may reduce the pathological gambling rates and better results can be obtained with educational campaigns beginning earlier in life.
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