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Gambling-Induced Analgesia: A Single Case Report

Alexander Blaszczynski, Fiona Maccallum

Abstract


This paper describes a single case study of analgesia induced by gambling. The subject is a 48-year-old male diagnosed with pathological gambling problems, suffering chronic back pain resulting from a road trauma. The reported intensity of arousal associated with slot machines and roulette produced a state of dissociation or distraction that temporarily reduced levels of pain. Consistent with an operant conditioning model, this reduction in pain was a negative reinforcer that acted to elicit further gambling whenever the pain reached a certain level of discomfort. In the absence of any effective analgesic medication, he used gambling as his predominant strategy to manage pain. He began to enjoy gambling, and within a relatively short period, lost more than he intended and commenced chasing losses. Pain levels decreased following chiropractic interventions, but his gambling continued. The additional, positive reinforcing effects of the excitement generated by the slot machines and roulette gaming became sufficient to maintain persistence in gambling independent of pain experienced. This case highlights the possibility that psychological factors involved in establishing a gambling habit may differ from those involved in maintaining persistence.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4309/jgi.2001.4.3

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