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Researchers have found that teen gambling is associated with other risky behaviors that include substance abuse like tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana. Gambling covers everything from scratch off lottery tickets to video poker games to table games and slot machines inside casinos. The research results were published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. The study involved over 1,300 children in grades 6 through 8 in Italian schools, and all of the participants were in an underage substance abuse prevention program. The students answered questions about personal gambling experiences and types, and also questions about their experiences with substance abuse. University of Padova, Italy, researcher Dr. Alessandra Buja explained that the close link between substance abuse and gambling “provides further evidence of the need for a greater awareness of gambling behavior in early adolescence.”

According to Dr. Buja and the co-authors of the study paper “Today’s youth are the first generation for whom gambling opportunities are as close as the neighborhood corner store and as easily accessible as the Internet. Our data show that a history of gambling is associated with risk-taking behavior relating to the use of other substances in very young adolescents. Impulsiveness may be an important common denominator linking gambling with substance abuse in adolescence. It is important for healthcare professionals, teachers, and parents to recognize this problem and take it seriously.” Children and teens who gamble are also more likely to engage in substance abuse, but the connection could be linked to the level of impulse control in the individual and that has not been determined yet.