Background: Personality traits may form a part of the aetiology of opioid dependence. For instance, opioid dependence may result from self-medication in emotionally unstable individuals, or from experimenting with drugs in sensation seekers. The five factor model (FFM) has obtained a central position in contemporary personality trait theory. The five factors are: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness. Few studies have examined whether there is a distinct personality pattern associated with opioid dependence.
Methods: We compared FFM personality traits in 65 opioid dependent persons (mean age 27 years, 34% females) in outpatient counselling after a minimum of 5 weeks in buprenorphine replacement therapy, with those in a non-clinical, age- and sex-matched sample selected from a national database. Personality traits were assessed by a Norwegian version of the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R), a 240-item self-report questionnaire. Cohen's d effect sizes were calculated for the differences in personality trait scores.
Results: The opioid-dependent sample scored higher on Neuroticism, lower on Extraversion and lower on Conscientiousness (d = -1.7, 1.2 and 1.7, respectively) than the controls. Effects sizes were small for the difference between the groups in Openness to experience scores and Agreeableness scores.
Conclusion: We found differences of medium and large effect sizes between the opioid dependent group and the matched comparison group, suggesting that the personality traits of people with opioid dependence are in fact different from those of non-clinical peers.