Regular Users of Cannabis and Alcohol More Impulsive than Non-Users

Regular Users of Cannabis and Alcohol More Impulsive than Non-Users

Regular consumers of cannabis and alcohol are more impulsive than non-users, according to a study by psychologists from the University of Almeria in Spain, led by Dr. Pilar Flores and Flor Zaldívar.

However, there is no evidence of the differences between both of these consumer groups, which makes these experts believe that “consuming these substances, whatever their nature, is related to impulsivity.”

Science Daily reports that this study, which began in October 2006, was promoted by the Department for Equal Opportunities and Social Welfare.

In an attempt to discover if recreational use of these substances (alcohol and cannabis) affects impulsivity, this behavior was measured in three categories: motor impulsivity, cognitive impulsivity, and unplanned impulsivity. To achieve this goal, a population sample was taken of a total of 575 students (50.7% women and 49.3% men) who were assigned to three groups depending on their drug habits.

The researchers observed, in the first samplings, that 21.4% use cannabis regularly, 32.5% drink alcohol, and the remaining 34.6% do not consume any drugs. It seems that gender influences consumption patterns, since 62.5% of the male population sample are usual consumers of one of these substances and 45.6% of women are regular consumers. Men also consume higher amounts of both substances.

The results show significant behavior differences depending on the analyzed groups. Cognitive impulsivity may be defined as the subject’s tendency to give quick responses, especially in tasks that implicitly or explicitly imply uncertain responses, and therefore, they make more mistakes.

With regard to the analysis of the data obtained in the laboratory tests that measure this type of impulsivity, the student groups that consumed addictive substances showed more impulsive behavior than nonusers. However, this pattern changes when one takes into account motor tasks, where this correlation has only been proven in the case of cannabis users. Motor impulsivity implies acting without thinking and being driven by the momentum.

In conclusion, the researchers explain that “it is undeniable that university students regularly consume addictive substances. On the other hand, it seems clear that there is a relationship between drug use and impulsive behavior, although we still have to clarify whether this attitude is a cause or a result of drug use.”

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