Adolescence is a period of time where young people are more likely to seek independence and novel experiences, experiment with their expression and identity and have less regard for risk. Given the natural surge in sensation-seeking behaviours, gambling and stimulant use may increase these effects and have potentially negative consequences to a young person's wellbeing and development.
A recent study has examined the relationship between stimulant drug use and gambling in over 7000 high-school students.
The results from the study found that the use of any stimulant drug increased the likelihood of problem gambling in both male and female students. Crack cocaine and methamphetamines use were particularly associated with high risk and frequent gambling.
Factors that may contribute to an adolescent’s likelihood of substance use and gambling include family structure, parental support, peer influence, feelings of alienation, anxiety, low self-esteem, and impulsivity. It may be useful in some cases to regard high-risk behaviours as functional for an adolescent to achieve goals in their social environment.
Given that there is a positive relationship between gambling and substance use, it is possible that the involvement in gambling or stimulant use may motivate individuals to seek a similar state of psychological arousal.
The apparent relationship that exists between substance use and gambling in adolescents highlights the importance of being mindful of the overlap between common high-risk behaviours when designing interventions.