Certain behavioral traits have long been associated with a risk for drug abuse, but new research published in the journal Behavioral Sciences by researchers at Yale University dug deeper into the links between patterns of drug abuse and behavior categorized as antisocial or psychopathic.
There are two subtypes of people who engage in a high level of antisocial behavior: those deemed ‘antisocial-only’ and a group given the term ‘psychopathy.’
These two groups took divergent pathways in developing substance use disorders. Those in the antisocial-only group were more reactive and impulsive, whereas those in the psychopathy group were led to substance abuse because of their lack of consideration for emotion and behavior.
The antisocial-only group was characterized as having a diagnosed conduct disorder in childhood and antisocial personality disorder as adults, defined by high rates of impulsivity and emotional reactivity. People in the psychopathy group were diagnosed with callous-unemotional traits and conduct disorder in childhood, defined by antisocial behavior, low empathy and weak interpersonal emotions.
The pathways to a substance use disorder varied between the two groups, and between those diagnosed with conduct disorder and those with callous-unemotional traits, researchers found.
Drug abuse among the antisocial-only group was a result of hyperactivity and poor executive functions. The combination of these two traits may lead to an “overvaluation” of the rewards that substance abuse offers, as well as an overvaluation of the relief substances provide, “which makes it difficult to inhibit habitual use in the face of psychological or physical distress,” researchers wrote. Young people who are only diagnosed with conduct disorder may be prone to drug abuse out of impulsivity and a need to temper emotional stress.
In youths with callous-unemotional traits, drug abuse was motivated by “thoughtful planning,” with little attention paid to consequences or emotions. Risk-seeking played a large role in drug abuse for youths with callous-unemotional traits, as did the perceived rewards.
These two divergent paths create the opportunity to… (continue reading)