November 25, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Egan Presents Facets of Impulsivity Predict Substance Use by College Students Over and Above ADHD Diagnostic Histories

Ohio University Psychology graduate student Theresa Egan presented a poster on “Facets of Impulsivity Predict Substance Use by College Students Over and Above ADHD Diagnostic Histories” at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies annual convention Nov. 20-23 in Philadelphia.

Co-authors are Dr. Brian Wymbs, Assistant Professor of Psychology, and graduate student Anne Dawson.

Abstract: Impulsivity, or acting in the moment without necessary regard for consequences, is a trait commonly associated with substance use and abuse (Shin, Chung, & Jeon, 2013). However, impulsivity is a multifaceted construct (Lynam et al., 2006), and the extent to which these unique facets of impulsivity relate to alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, illicit, and stimulant drug use is currently under-examined (Shin et al., 2013). Notably, impulsivity is a core feature of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; APA, 2013), and individuals with ADHD diagnostic histories are prone to substance use and abuse (Barkley et al., 2008; Molina, 2011). Interestingly, there is some evidence to suggest facets of impulsivity (e.g., sensation-seeking) explain the link between ADHD symptoms and substance use and abuse (Van Eck, Markle, & Flory, 2012). The current study extended previous research by exploring whether sensation seeking and facets of impulsivity (e.g., urgency) are uniquely associated with substance use in college students beyond risk indicated by having a prior ADHD diagnosis.

The current study consisted of 197 undergraduates (50.8% female; 89.3% Caucasian, 59.4% first year students) who attended a Midwestern public university. Participants reported their diagnostic history of ADHD and completed the UPPS-P (Lynam et al., 2006), a 59-item questionnaire that assesses five empirically-supported facets of impulsivity: positive urgency, negative urgency, lack of perseverance, lack of premeditation, and sensation seeking. Participants completed the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT; Saunders et al., 1993), a widely-used and empirically-validated measure of alcohol use and abuse. Participants also reported on their use of tobacco, cannabis, and illicit drugs within the past year, as well as their history of stimulant misuse.

Regression analyses were conducted on five dependent variables (e.g., alcohol use/abuse; use of tobacco; use of cannabis; use of any other illicit drugs; stimulant misuse) while controlling for variables frequently associated with impulsivity and substance use (e.g., gender, ADHD diagnosis). A hierarchical linear regression indicated negative urgency (β = .327, p < .001) and sensation seeking (β = .215, p = .003) predicted alcohol abuse over other predictors and covariates (R2 = .288). A hierarchical logistic regression analysis indicated that sensation seeking (β = .071, p = .018) uniquely predicted illicit drug use (Nagelkerke R2 = .159). A hierarchical linear regression indicated sensation seeking (β = .202, p = .007) also predicted stimulant misuse over other predictors and covariates (R2 = .120). Facets of impulsivity did not significantly predict cannabis use or tobacco use. These findings expand upon previous research (Van Eck et al., 2012) in demonstrating the importance of assessing facets of impulsivity in relation to alcohol abuse, illicit drug use, and stimulant misuse by college students. In addition, individuals with clinically-significant levels of impulsivity (i.e., individuals with ADHD) often have substance use issues (Molina & Pelham, 2003), and knowing specific facets of impulsivity tied to substance misuse has potential to inform treatment development and implementation for adults with ADHD.

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