Do Inattention And Impulsivity Increase The Risks For Stimulant Abuse?
Inattention and impulsivity are two mental/behavioral patterns that can substantially lower a person’s ability to function well in a range of social and interpersonal situations. While these patterns are commonly linked to the presence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they also occur in people unaffected by ADHD. In a study published in November 2013 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from the University of Chicago looked at both inattention and impulsivity as potential risk factors for increasing individuals’ sensitivity to the effects of the stimulant amphetamine. Typically, such an increase in drug sensitivity significantly heightens the risks for subsequent stimulant abuse and stimulant addiction.
Inattention is the general term for an inability to stay focused on specific events taking place in your current surroundings, stay focused on specific details of your environment or stay focused during personal or group interactions with others. In the context of ADHD, these focusing problems contribute substantially to social and interpersonal dysfunction, characterized by such things as poor academic performance in school or college, difficulties making appropriate social adjustments to changing circumstances, underdevelopment of critical language and math skills, a reduced ability to get or keep a job, and difficulty maintaining personal or intimate relationships. Outside of the context of an ADHD diagnosis, inattention can increase a person’s risks for involvement in accidents or susceptibility to fraud or other deceitful behavior.
Impulsivity is a term used to describe a tendency to act without significant forethought, or to act while ignoring previously gained insights regarding the negative potential outcomes of one’s actions. In the context of ADHD, the tendency to act impulsively contributes to the same general forms of social and interpersonal dysfunction that appear in people affected by ADHD-related inattention. Outside of the context of ADHD, impulsivity is linked to increased risks for a group of mental health conditions called personality disorders, as well as increased risks for mania, a highly agitated or excitable state commonly associated with the presence of bipolar disorder.
Inattention, Impulsivity Problems And Susceptibility To Stimulants
In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the University of Chicago researchers gave fairly low 20 mg, 10 mg and 5 mg doses of amphetamine to 165 adults with no history of substance abuse issues or other major health problems. After receiving each dose, each of these adults took part in tests designed to measure problems with inattention and problems with impulsivity. Each adult also filled out two questionnaires that helped the researchers gauge their sensitivity to the effects of amphetamine. For the sake of comparison, all 165 participants also went through the same testing procedures after taking a placebo drug dose that didn’t actually contain amphetamine or any other mind-altering substance.
The purpose of the project was to determine whether a high degree of impulsivity or inattention can increase a person’s susceptibility to the effects of amphetamine, and therefore make that person more susceptible to the eventual development of amphetamine abuse, amphetamine dependence or amphetamine addiction. The project’s designers undertook their efforts because, while previous studies had raised the possibility of a link between impulsivity, inattention and increased sensitivity to stimulant drugs, the authors of these studies had not examined this issue in detail.
At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that people affected by unusual degrees of inattention actually experience a decrease in their sensitivity to the mind-altering effects of amphetamine, not an increase. In addition, when amphetamine doses grow larger, people affected by inattention become less and less sensitive to the drug’s effects. The story is different for unusually impulsive people. When these individuals receive amphetamine, they exhibit a strong sensitivity to the drug’s effects. In addition, this sensitivity rises as the administered dose of amphetamine increases.
Results Of Strong Inattention, Impulsivity On Stimulant Abuse
The results of the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence indicate that the presence of unusually high levels of inattention may act as a hindrance to developing an abusive or addictive pattern of stimulant use. Conversely, the presence of unusually high levels of impulsivity may act as a factor in the development of these harmful patterns of stimulant intake. If this second point is true, then high impulsivity almost certainly adds to other known risks for developing stimulant abuse or addiction problems, rather than acting on its own as a primary factor.
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