Over 115 people in the United States die every day from an opioid overdose (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2018), and an estimated 623,000 adolescents between the ages of 12-17 were diagnosed with an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) (Alcohol Use Disorder, n.d.). Previous techniques enforced by the government in an attempt to conquer the drug epidemic have been unsuccessful. Using prevention measures is an innovative way to combat addiction by making people informed of the reality of this disease, and how it can happen to anyone. One way to do so is by addressing the personality traits of individuals early on in life. Behaviors of the substance abuser are often monitored and assessed during their time in treatment. Their vulnerability is projected through various emotions, and these traits are easily recognizable during the recovery process. However, if we monitor an individual’s profile through their personality dispositions, it is likely that we can use these results to better understand the risk the population we survey has on developing a substance use disorder (SUD). With this information, we can also asses the level of necessity for prevention methods and other forms of drug abuse education that should be provided to further prevent the epidemic from growing.
Gender was defined as an individual who is male, female, or considered other. Risk profile was broken down into four subscales including hopelessness, anxiety sensitivity, impulsivity, and sensation seeking. Each of these subscales represent vulnerable characteristics typically found in individuals with SUDs.
These four personality dimensions were to successfully predicted SUDs (Schlauch, Crane, Houston, Molnar, Schlienz, & Lang, 2014). Anxiety sensitivity predicted cocaine use, hopelessness predicted coping-motivated drinking, reckless behavior, and illegal drug use, sensation seeking predicted sexual risk taking and other reckless behaviors, and impulsivity predicted alcohol problems, illegal drug use, and reckless behaviors. (Schlauch, et,. al.).
Multiple research studies that are related to the four subscales in the SURPS have also successfully predicted drug and alcohol use or abuse. Antisocial behaviors such as selling drugs, using weapons, stealing, and vandalism can be tied into the subscales that we measured such as impulsivity and sensation seeking, which were associated with substance use and depression during adolescence. Male participants with these antisocial behaviors were associated with using alcohol (Mason, Zaharakis, Rusby, Westiling, Light, & Mennis, 2017). Self control was another profile characteristic measured in a separate study performed in 2015, where levels of self control, which can also be related with impulsiveness, was defined as a level of mindfulness. The results showed that when an individual’s level of self control was low, there was an association with having a drug problem, which specifically heightened in the late thirties (Tarantino, Lamis, Ballard, Masuda & Dvorak, 2015). Results of another study showed that men who conformed to risk taking engaged in more hazardous alcohol use as well (Whitley, Madson, & Zeigler-Hill, 2018). Risk taking can be reflected through impulsive actions or any form of engagement that results in the individual receiving a desired sensation.
Alcohol expectancies were a characteristic measured for AUDs. Survey questions in this study performed in 2017 were interested in learning the reasons for why individuals seek and consume alcohol. One question used was, I would feel friendly, which could be considered an anxiety-driven action to partake in alcohol consumption, specifically focusing on the desire of the behavioral effects alcohol has on individuals. This trait was associated with more frequent drinking (Jarvi and Swenson, 2017).
Most previous research regarding risks for drug and alcohol use focused on a male population only. However, those who did measure gender differences amongst various substance use and abuse research had consistent results stating men were more likely to be at risk for SUDs. One example was a study completed by Whitley, Madson, & Zeigler-Hill, which stated that college women reported using more protective behavioral strategies (PBS) than men. Examples of PBS included setting a limit to how much alcohol one should consume, using a designated driver, etc.
The purpose of this study was to measure if there was a difference between the risk for alcohol and/or drug use by gender. Our sample included gender to measure if there would be different scores using the SURPS (Woicik, Stewart, Pihl, & Conrod, 2009). It was important that women were included in the sample due to the lack of research measuring females and their risks for developing SUDs. In fact, there are no previous publications using the SURPS to measure gender differences.
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