Activity 2: The addictive personality—Fact or myth?

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The myth of an “addictive personality” continues to be a robust one despite evidence to the contrary for more than half a century. Landis (1945) found that no typical personality configuration was associated with alcoholism; and a review of the literature by Carroll (1978) came to the firm conclusion that “no consistent support” exists for the concept of an addictive personality (cited in Kerr, 1996). While a particular personality type that causes addiction and/or only presents in people who are addicted may not be credible, some studies have linked some pre-drinking personality traits with early onset substance use. For example, characteristics associated with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) have a particularly pernicious relationship with substance use disorders. ASPD has been found to be associated with an earlier age of onset, a greater variation of substance use, and a more rapid progression to dependence (Mueser et al., 2006). Mushquash et al. (2014) have examined the association between the personality traits of anxiety sensitivity, sensation seeking, impulsivity, and hopelessness and drinking motives among Canadian aboriginal youth. This study may provide some insights into tailoring interventions more effectively. An outstanding question remains as to whether these personality traits have a neurobiological aspect to them?

The readings associated with this activity ask you to critically review the evidence associated with personality traits and substance use disorders. Your textbook (page 99) refers to the five-factor model of personality. This activity requires you to review the evidence associated with this model.


  1. Prior to completing the readings, consider your perception as to whether an “addictive personality” exists and what traits you would associate with this model.
  2. Read the following:
    • Chapter 7 of your textbook: “Developmental Perspectives on the Risk for Developing Substance Abuse Problems” by Hesselbrock and Hesselbrock
    • Hwang, J., Choi, J., Gwak A., Jung, D., Choi, S., Lee, J., Lee, J-Y., Jung, H., & Kim, D. (2014). Shared psychological characteristics that are linked to aggression between patients with Internet addiction and those with alcohol dependence. Annals of General Psychiatry, 13 (1), 2–13. (Available through TRU Library)
    • Gullo, M., Loxton, N., & Dawe, S. (2014). Impulsivity: Four ways five factors are not basic to addiction. Addictive Behaviours, 39(11), 1547–1556. (Available through TRU Library)
    • Malmberg, M., Kleinjan, M., Overbeek, G., Vermulst, A., Lamers, J., & Engel, R. (2013). Are there reciprocal relationships between substance use risk personality profiles and alcohol or tobacco use in early adolescence? Addictive Behaviours, 38(12), 2851–2859. (Available through TRU library)
    • Mushquash, C., Stewart, S., Mushquash, A., Comeau, M., & McGrath, P. (2014). Personality traits and drinking motives predict alcohol misuse among Canadian Aboriginal youth. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 12(3), 270–282.
  3. Write out a short summary paragraph capturing the evidence associated with the concept of an addictive personality (or the lack of evidence for the support of an addictive personality).
  4. If possible, have a conversation with a friend, colleague, or course colleague about these concepts.