Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Survey of Pharmacy Students' Experiences with Gambling

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Survey of Pharmacy Students' Experiences with Gambling

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The widespread availability and legalization of various gambling venues has resulted in greater societal acceptance of this activity. For the majority of participants, gambling represents just another form of entertainment. For a few, however, participation in gambling activities has significant negative consequences. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders-IV-TR defines pathological gambling as a "persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior that disrupts personal, family, or vocational pursuits." (1) The reported prevalence of pathological gambling among the general adult population in the United States is consistently between 1% and 2%, with an additional 2% to 3% characterized as "problem" gamblers. (2) Reported prevalence rates of problem and pathological gambling among college students, however, varies widely. Approximately 2.6% to as many as 26% of college students have characteristics of problem and/or pathological gambling, with the highest percentage among athletes and members of fraternities. (3-7) The standard instrument to assess the presence of problematic gambling behavior in adults is the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS) developed by Lesieur and Blume. (8) Participants studied using the screen were scored 1 point for each positive (affirmative) answer with a maximum possible score of 20. The screen is used most often to identify populations of probable problem gamblers (SOGS score = 3 to 4) and probable pathological gamblers (SOGS score [greater than or equal to] 5). In addition, Doiron and Nicki (9) have described a population of gamblers they termed "at-risk" who scored 1 to 2 points. The screen was reliable in identifying probable pathological gamblers with a reported Cronbach's alpha = 0.97, p < 0.001. The validity of the instrument when tested among 213 members of Gamblers Anonymous and 384 college students revealed a false-positive rate of 1.4% and 1.3%, respectively. The false negatives were likewise low at 0.5% and 3.4%. Use of the screen has come under scrutiny with criticism that it overestimates the prevalence rate of problem gambers. (10) Weinstock et al, (11) assessed the psychometric properties of the screen in a group of 159 college students, and found the screen demonstrated good specificity (88%) and sensitivity (71%), and correctly classified participants 83.8% of the time. It has been used as the instrument of choice in over 200 studies. A meta-analysis of 15 studies conducted between 1994 and 2005 that used the screen identified a disordered gamblers prevalence rate of 7.9% among 9,794 college students. (12)

The consequences of problem gambling are significant. Adult problem gamblers are often afflicted with other addictive disorders, have a higher incidence of marital dysfunction, are more likely to be unemployed, and commit crimes that support their gambling behavior, such as theft by embezzlement, forgery, and robbery. (13-15) College students who gamble have a higher involvement in other risky behaviors (binge drinking, cigarette smoking, and marijuana use) than their non-gambling counterparts. (6,7,16)

The opportunities to engage in gambling activities have increased dramatically over the past decade. Within 5 miles of the Creighton University campus, across the state line in Iowa, 3 Las Vegas-style casinos offer slot machines and table games, such as craps, blackjack, and Texas hold 'em. In addition, students have access to lottery, horse- and dog-race betting, and a variety of online, illegal gambling activities. Proximity to gambling venues has been cited as a possible risk factor in the epidemiology of gambling among college students. Shaffer et al reported an association with the years worked at a casino and the prevalence of problem gambling. (17) The issue of proximity has been questioned recently by Sevigny et al, whose data failed to support an association of problem gambling and proximity. (18) Anecdotally, Creighton University pharmacy students on occasion have admitted to excessive participation in gambling as a negative factor in achieving academic success, prompting the authors to question the extent of gambling among the population of professional students. …

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