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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Five-Factor Model personality profiles of drug users

Antonio Terracciano1*, Corinna E Löckenhoff1, Rosa M Crum2, O Joseph Bienvenu2 and Paul T Costa12

Author Affiliations

1 National Institute on Aging, NIH, DHHS, Baltimore, USA

2 Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, USA

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BMC Psychiatry 2008, 8:22  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-8-22

Published: 11 April 2008

Abstract

Background

Personality traits are considered risk factors for drug use, and, in turn, the psychoactive substances impact individuals' traits. Furthermore, there is increasing interest in developing treatment approaches that match an individual's personality profile. To advance our knowledge of the role of individual differences in drug use, the present study compares the personality profile of tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin users and non-users using the wide spectrum Five-Factor Model (FFM) of personality in a diverse community sample.

Method

Participants (N = 1,102; mean age = 57) were part of the Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) program in Baltimore, MD, USA. The sample was drawn from a community with a wide range of socio-economic conditions. Personality traits were assessed with the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R), and psychoactive substance use was assessed with systematic interview.

Results

Compared to never smokers, current cigarette smokers score lower on Conscientiousness and higher on Neuroticism. Similar, but more extreme, is the profile of cocaine/heroin users, which score very high on Neuroticism, especially Vulnerability, and very low on Conscientiousness, particularly Competence, Achievement-Striving, and Deliberation. By contrast, marijuana users score high on Openness to Experience, average on Neuroticism, but low on Agreeableness and Conscientiousness.

Conclusion

In addition to confirming high levels of negative affect and impulsive traits, this study highlights the links between drug use and low Conscientiousness. These links provide insight into the etiology of drug use and have implications for public health interventions.