CPFT study suggests link between caffeine and problem gambling

CPFT study suggests link between caffeine and problem gambling

CPFT study suggests link between caffeine and problem gambling
23 November 2017

A study by researchers from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) and the University of Chicago has found a possible link between problem gambling and increased caffeine consumption. 

In a study published recently in Addictive Behaviours, CPFT’s Dr Samuel Chamberlain and Professor Jon Grant from the University of Chicago, studied caffeine consumption and impulsivity in 61 problem gamblers aged 18 to 29.

Participants reported how much caffeine they consumed over the last month, and completed a series of cognitive tasks and questionnaires that measured impulsivity. Participants also completed the Cambridge Gambling Task, which measures the quality of decision making in gambling.

The research team ran a statistical model to look at which factors predicted the amount of caffeine that the participants consumed. The model showed that participants who consumed more caffeine were more impulsive and made more risky or irrational decisions in the Cambridge Gambling Task. Being older, starting gambling at a younger age and smoking were also related to greater caffeine consumption. These factors (impulsivity, gambling task performance, age, age at the start of gambling and nicotine use) combined explained 32% of variation in caffeine intake in this population of problem gamblers.

Dr Samuel Chamberlain, who is an honorary consultant psychiatrist at CPFT, said: “Caffeine is one of the most widely used, socially acceptable drugs in the world. Yet, we know surprisingly little about its effects on brain chemistry, cognitive abilities, and psychiatric symptoms. Caffeine has potential beneficial effects for sustaining attention – for example, in students or taxi drivers. At the same time, it has a down-side in people with certain mental disorders, such as gambling disorder, or anxiety problems.”

This is the first study to report a link between caffeine consumption and impulsivity in problem gamblers. The study, as the authors acknowledge, cannot prove whether caffeine leads to gambling, or rather might be a form of coping in gamblers, perhaps to help them stay awake during prolonged gambling episodes. An alternative explanation for the association is that people who are more impulsive have a greater chance of becoming problem gamblers, and are more likely to consume more caffeine.

Future research will determine the direction of any causal relationships between impulsivity, problem gambling and caffeine intake. If impulsivity does increase caffeine intake and problem gambling behaviours, then neurocognitive tests of impulsivity may be a useful way of identifying those who are at risk for problem gambling. Alternatively, if excessive caffeine intake does lead to risky gambling behaviour, treatment for problem gambling could include controlling caffeine intake.



Contact details
For more information please contact:
Adrian Ient
Communications Manager
E adrian.ient@cpft.nhs.uk 
T 01223 219470

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital
Cambridge, CB21 5EF

T 01223 219400 (open 8:30am to 5pm)
F 01480 398501

IIP-logo-reversed Mindful-employer NHS-Employers-web Triangle-of-Care-member Twitter Logo Youtube Logo Facebook Logo Instagram Logo Wordpress Logo