Gamblers who drink alcohol are more likely to entertain thoughts of suicide

There is a strong association between problem gambling, suicide ideation, and excessive alcohol consumption. This is thought to be due to the financial and relationship hardships due to excessive gambling. Excessive gamblers often feel hopelessness and a belief that the only way out is suicide. Past research has found that thoughts of suicide are heightened in gamblers seeking help who drink alcohol. Approximately 70% of people who have a gambling problem who seek treatment also meet criteria for alcohol dependence.

Due to a lack of knowledge of how excessive alcohol consumption affects suicide ideation, the current study published in Addictive Behaviors focused on this relationship among those gamblers who reported having suicidal ideations; these ideations are a strong predictor for future suicide attempts. There is a significant gap in studies about problem gamblers because less than 10% of problem gamblers seek help for their treatment. Those who do seek treatment usually wait five years  after experiencing his or her first gambling related harm to seek treatment. The researchers used participants from the general population, not gamblers in clinical settings.

Researchers tested whether the relationship between problem gambling severity and suicidal ideations is moderated by consumption of alcohol within the past twelve months. They recruited gamblers who reported they experienced suicide ideation and alcohol consumption. The participants then answered survey questions, which assessed problem behavior and the consequences of gambling. Participants were then asked about alcohol consumption. If they consumed alcohol within the week, they were asked to report how many drinks per day they had. To evaluate suicide ideations, participants were asked if they ever seriously considered taking their own life; those who answered yes were asked if this ideation had occurred within the past year.

The results indicate that alcohol consumption significantly increases the odds of suicidal ideations among problem gamblers. The study also demonstrated that the odds of suicide ideation becomes more likely the more severe the gambling problem becomes. Female gamblers tended to report more suicide ideation than male gamblers.

The researchers mentioned that these results may have implications for alcohol and gambling education for the general public. Most of these educational efforts focus on alcohol affecting gambling play, such as betting more than you can afford to lose. Perhaps it is time to start educating gamblers on the personal risks of consuming alcohol with gambling behavior, specifically the risk of suicide ideations, which are a strong predictor of suicide. The researchers also made note that the present research cannot speak to causality between alcohol and suicide ideations among gamblers. The researchers concluded on a grave note that it is possible for gamblers to recover from many of the negative consequences associated with problem gambling, there is no recovery from suicide.