Who Uses Drugs and Why?

Psychologists have long been interested in understanding what factors influence whether a person takes recreational drugs. Personality traits are well known to influence many areas of a person’s life, and drug-taking is no exception. Several studies on the subject have looked at the Big 5 personality traits: openness to experience, which relates to the breadth and complexity of a person’s mental life; conscientiousness, which relates to organization and self-discipline; extraversion, related both to sociability and pleasure-seeking; agreeableness, related to cooperation and consideration for others; and neuroticism, related to emotional instability and mental health problems. A recent study (Allen & Laborde, 2020) in Australia involving over 12,000 people surveyed over four years found that the use of any illicit drug was related to having high openness to experience, high extraversion, low conscientiousness and agreeableness, and high neuroticism, in that order of importance. This would suggest that drug users tend to people interested in having novel experiences, who are outgoing and pleasure-seeking, prone to impulsivity and being undisciplined, willing to disregard social norms, and emotionally troubled to some extent. These effects of personality held even when controlling for differences in age, sex, and socioeconomic status.

The study used data from a large-scale long-term Australian survey of households that aimed to collect data from a sample that represents the national population as accurately as possible. Participants were asked about their personality traits in 2012 and then about their drug use in the previous 12 months in 2016. This allowed the researchers to look at the associations between personality and drug use over a reasonably long period.

Full article at Psychology Today

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