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Nancy Petry, Ph.D. - University of Connecticut. Storrs, CT, US

Nancy Petry, Ph.D. Nancy Petry, Ph.D.

Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry | University of Connecticut


Psychiatry expert, specializing in online gaming and gambling addiction, Internet addiction, substance abuse.


Nancy Petry joined the faculty of the University of Connecticut Health Center in 1996, and she is presently Professor of Medicine and Director of Behavioral Cardiovascular Prevention in the Calhoun Cardiology Center. Dr. Petry conducts research on the treatment of addictive disorders, ranging from substance use disorders to pathological gambling. Her two primary lines of research involve contingency management interventions for the treatment of substance use disorders and psychotherapies for the treatment of problem and pathological gambling. Her work is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Areas of Expertise (6)

Gambling Internet Addiction Addiction and Recovery Gaming Addiction Substance Abuse and Addiction Online Gaming

Education (2)

Harvard University: Ph.D., Psychology 1994

Randolph-Macon Woman’s CollegE: B.A., Psychology 1990



Nancy Petry, Ph.D. Publication




kineticvideo.com - problem gambling-14588


Media Appearances (7)

Video Game Addiction Tries to Move From Basement to Doctor’s Office

New York Times  print


But some mental health professionals insist that gaming disorder is not a stand-alone medical condition. Rather, they see it as a symptom or a side effect of more familiar conditions, such as depression or anxiety.

“We don’t know how to treat gaming disorder,” said Nancy Petry, a psychology professor and addiction expert with the University of Connecticut. “It’s such a new condition and phenomenon.”

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WIRED  online


"We just don't have the data," says University of Connecticut psychologist Nancy Petry, who is leading the first NIH-funded study on technology addiction. The investigation, which only began last year, is still in the participant-recruitment phase, but will eventually center on the diagnosis and treatment of gaming addiction in teens and young adults. Of the many conditions subsumed by the umbrella of technology addiction, Petry says gaming is the one researchers know the most about.

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Apple urged to take action on smartphone addiction some call 'digital heroin'

CNBC  online


"Tech addiction is a hot topic and one that people talk about a lot, but we need to clearly define and differentiate what constitutes a mental disorder that is causing major adverse consequences and distinguish it from just a bad habit that people just wish they weren't doing," says psychiatrist Dr. Nancy Petry of the UConn Health Center, who is also a consultant and advisor for the National Institutes of Health.

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The World Health Organization Identifies Gaming Disorder as a Mental Health Condition

Futurism  online


In 2018, the World Health Organization plans to add “gaming disorder” – characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior – to its list of mental health conditions. “The WHO designation is now generally in line with the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)’s description of internet gaming disorder (IGD),” Nancy Petry, a professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center, told Futurism.

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Internet addiction is sweeping America, affecting millions



The lead investigator of the study, Dr. Nancy Petry, also happens to be part of the American Psychiatric Association Workgroup on Substance Use and Related Disorders for the DSM-5 and chaired the subcommittee on non-substance-use addictive disorders. According to her, in 2013, when the DSM-5 was last published, there "wasn't sufficient evidence to conclude that internet gaming addiction is a condition that can be reliably or accurately ascertained in people."...

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This dark side of the Internet is costing young people their jobs and social lives

The Washington Post  


It’s difficult to tease out from existing research what exactly an addiction to the Internet entails, said Nancy Petry, a doctor and professor at the University of Connecticut’s medical school. She was on the American Psychiatric Association’s committee that evaluated behavioral addictions for the DSM’s fifth edition. Is an addiction to online pornography, for example, an indication of an Internet addiction or of a sexual disorder? Or could it be both? Even when looking at something like an addiction to video games, Petry said, researchers have yet to define what aspects of gameplay are uniquely addictive.

“I think that’s part of the issue with this particular condition,” Petry said. “It shouldn’t be ­technology-specific. You don’t have a medical disorder based on a technology per se; that’s led to inconsistencies about what are people assessing. And when you open it up to [broader] Internet addiction, it gets messier and messier.”

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Contingency management: Why it pays to quit



But despite proven results, treatment schemes like this are rarely offered. “I think in some ways that relates to the controversial nature of it,” says Nancy Petry, an addiction specialist at the University of Connecticut in Farmington. “You're providing tangible rewards to people who were engaging in illegal or unhealthy behaviours.” To help to change that perception, an array of scientists are working on ways to improve contingency management by tweaking how it is offered, in the hope that it will finally cross the boundary to an acceptable and commonplace treatment.

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Articles (5)

Alcohol use disorders are associated with increased HIV risk behaviors in cocaine-dependent methadone patients Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment


People who inject drugs (PWID) are at increased risk of HIV infection. Although methadone maintenance therapy can help lower this risk, many methadone patients continue to engage in HIV risk behaviors, especially patients who use cocaine and alcohol. The purpose of the current study was to investigate relations between alcohol use disorders and HIV risk behavior in 239 cocaine-dependent methadone patients participating in a randomized controlled trial of a behavioral intervention to promote cocaine abstinence. Past 3-month HIV Risk-taking Behavior Scale (HRBS) scores were compared between cocaine-dependent methadone patients who met DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence and those who did not meet these criteria. No significant differences in HRBS drug subscale scores were observed between participants with and without alcohol use disorders, indicating risky drug use was similar between groups. However, alcohol use disorder was significantly associated with HRBS sex subscale scores (t = 2.59, p = 0.01), indicating participants with alcohol use disorders were more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. Item-level analyses of the sex-related HRBS questions showed participants with alcohol use disorders were significantly more likely than participants without alcohol use disorders to have unprotected sex, engage in transactional (paid) sex, and have anal sex. Interventions are needed to reduce risky sexual behavior and attenuate the spread of HIV in this high-risk population.

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Contingency management treatment in cocaine using methadone maintained patients with and without legal problems Drug and Alcohol Dependence


Legal difficulties and cocaine use are prevalent in methadone maintenance patients, and they are related to one another, as well as to poor response to methadone treatment. Contingency management (CM) is efficacious for decreasing cocaine use, but the relation of CM treatment to criminal activities has rarely been studied. Methods This study evaluated whether baseline legal problems are related to subsequent substance use and illegal activities for cocaine using methadone maintained patients and whether CM differentially improves outcomes depending on baseline legal problems. Using data from four randomized CM trials (N = 323), we compared methadone maintained patients with legal problems at the start of study participation to those without initial legal problems. Results Overall, the addition of CM to standard methadone care improved substance use outcomes regardless of initial legal problems. Endorsement of legal problems within 30 days of study initiation was associated with reduced proportion of negative samples submitted during the 12-week treatment period. A significant interaction effect of baseline legal problems and treatment condition was present for subsequent self-reports of illegal activities. Those with baseline legal problems who were assigned to CM had reduced self-reports of reengagement in illegal activity throughout a six month follow-up compared to their counterparts randomized to standard care. Conclusions Adding CM to methadone treatment improves substance use outcomes and reduces subsequent illegal activity in cocaine-using methadone patients with legal problems.

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Treatments for Internet Gaming Disorder and Internet Addiction: A Systematic Review Psychology of Addictive Behaviors


Problems related to excessive use of the Internet and video games have recently captured the interests of both researchers and clinicians. The goals of this review are to summarize the literature on treatment effectiveness for these problems and to determine whether any treatments meet the minimum requirement of an evidence-based treatment as defined by Chambless et al. (1998). Studies of treatments for Internet gaming disorder (IGD) and Internet addiction were examined separately, as past studies have linked IGD to more severe outcomes. The systematic review identified 26 studies meeting predefined criteria; 13 focused on treatments for IGD and 13 on Internet addiction. The results highlighted a paucity of well-designed treatment outcome studies and limited evidence for the effectiveness of any treatment modality. Studies were limited by methodological flaws, including small sample sizes, lack of control groups, and little information on treatment adherence, among other problems. In addition, the field is beset by a lack of consistent definitions of and established instruments to measure IGD and Internet addiction. The results of this review highlight the need for additional work in the area of treatment development and evaluation for IGD and Internet addiction. Attention to methodological concerns identified within this review should improve subsequent research related to treating these conditions, and ultimately outcomes of patients suffering from them.

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An international consensus for assessing internet gaming disorder using the new DSM-5 approach Addiction


For the first time, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) introduces non-substance addictions as psychiatric diagnoses. The aims of this paper are to (i) present the main controversies surrounding the decision to include internet gaming disorder, but not internet addiction more globally, as a non-substance addiction in the research appendix of the DSM-5, and (ii) discuss the meaning behind the DSM-5 criteria for internet gaming disorder. The paper also proposes a common method for assessing internet gaming disorder. Although the need for common diagnostic criteria is not debated, the existence of multiple instruments reflect the divergence of opinions in the field regarding how best to diagnose this condition.

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Internet gaming disorder and the DSM‐5 Addiction


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), last published in 1994, is the primary classification system for psychiatric disorders in the United States and many other countries. In the past 19 years knowledge about psychiatric disorders has advanced, and a revision, the DSM-5, will be published in 2013.

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