A program developed by Patricia Conrod, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Montréal aims to correlate certain personality traits with an increased risk of addiction in teens aged 13 to 16.

“If these traits are predictive of who goes on to develop substance use problems, [they] can be used to help people divert their behavior toward more prosocial activity to not expose themselves to substances that cause physical mental and social harm,” Conrod said.

The PreVenture  program utilizes the Substance Use Risk Profile Scale (SURPS), a model based on the personality risk for substance abuse in four categories: hopelessness, anxiety sensitivity, impulsivity and sensation seeking behavior.

These four personality traits are known to be risk factors in teens for early onset substance misuse and are hypothesized to relate differently to specific patterns of drug abuse.

For example, impulsiveness can be linked to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, increasing illicit drug addiction by a factor of three. Hopelessness is associated with depression, and anxiety can be linked to panic disorder.

Those three traits were directly linked to mental health issues, a significant factor that can lead to addiction. Although excluded in relation to mental health, sensation-seeking behavior increases the risk of addiction for people vulnerable to intense experiences like those of drugs.

Predicting the risk of substance use disorder may prevent it from going undiagnosed.

“Many people who suffer from substance misuse suffer for many, many years before they get treatment, and once they get treatment, often it’s a long, difficult process and not successful for everybody,” Conrod said.

Conrod’s research found that SURPS could determine a high number of teens who have developed problems, identifying those at high… (continue reading)