Personality Is Key to Chances of Developing Addiction

Personality Is Key to Chances of Developing Addiction

Personality Is Key to Chances of Developing Addiction

Personality Is Key to Chances of Developing AddictionSubstance addiction occurs when a substance user develops a chemical dependence on the effects of drugs or alcohol, experiences constant cravings for drugs or alcohol, and arranges his or her life around the satisfaction of those cravings. Experts in the field know that men and women are typically affected by addiction in clearly differing ways. According to the results of a study published in November 2013 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the effects of certain gender-specific personality traits may help explain why substance addiction has such characteristic effects.

Substance Addiction

Doctors and other experts commonly use the term substance addiction to describe substance abuse that results in chemical dependence and a strongly dysfunctional pattern of substance-related behavior. In addition, when addicted people attempt to break their dysfunctional patterns and discontinue substance use, they commonly fail unless they receive some sort of professional help. Boys, girls, men and women are all susceptible to addiction to one degree or another. The substances most likely to foster such an addiction include alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, opioid drugs, opioid medications, amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine and inhalants.

Gender-Related Differences

In the U.S., men develop addiction-related issues substantially more often than women. However, when women do experience these issues, they commonly face problems more severe than those encountered by men. For example, women frequently develop chemical dependence after a shorter span of substance use than men, suffer the health and interpersonal consequences of addiction faster than men, have more difficulties stopping substance use than men and also have higher chances of relapsing back into substance use once they achieve abstinence.

Addictive substances that men abuse more often than women include alcohol, nicotine and marijuana. However, women commonly experience worse outcomes from alcohol and nicotine use/abuse, and may also experience worse marijuana-associated outcomes. Women abuse opioid medications more often than men, and may experience worse consequences from addiction to these substances. Men and women have roughly equal chances of abusing legal or illegal stimulants. However, on average, women start using cocaine earlier than men; they also appear to develop stimulant addictions more easily than men, and may have a more difficult time maintaining stimulant abstinence.

Role of Gender-Specific Personality Traits

Certain personality traits are known for their connection to increased chances for substance abuse and substance addiction. The most prominent examples of these traits include a heightened tendency to gravitate toward the situations and environments that foster the onset of substance use, a heightened tendency to act impulsively without considering the consequences of one’s action, and an increased tendency to experience negative emotional states that disturb one’s sense of emotional well-being.

In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Colorado School of Medicine sought to determine if varying levels of these personality traits between men and women help explain the gender-related risks for substance addiction. They conducted their examination of this issue with the help of 26 men and 25 women affected by addiction, as well as a comparison group of 41 men and 25 women unaffected by addiction. All of these participants underwent a battery of tests designed to detect elements of a substance use-supporting personality.

The researchers concluded that, compared to the other groups under consideration—including substance-addicted men—substance-addicted women show clear signs of increased levels of impulsive behavior, as well as increased levels of participation in the environments and situations that set the stage for substance abuse. In addition, they commonly lack personality traits that can help offset any tendencies toward substance use. The researchers also concluded that, when compared to healthy adults, both men and women affected by addiction experience significantly higher levels of the negative emotional states that can contribute to the onset of substance abuse.


Based on their findings, the authors of the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence determined that gender-specific personality traits may indeed help account for the differing outcomes that men and women experience when they use substances of abuse. However, because of the limitations of the study’s scope, they could not fully confirm the role of these traits. If the authors’ findings are verified through future research efforts, doctors and other professionals may gain important new insights into the ways in which substance addiction produces its harmful effects.

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