Impulsivity and risk-taking in co-occurring psychotic disorders and substance abuse

Psychiatry Res. 2011 Apr 30;186(2-3):351-5. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2010.08.014. Epub 2010 Sep 25.


Impulsivity is a risk-factor associated with substance use disorders. On paper-and-pencil measures, people with comorbid psychotic disorders and substance abuse have been shown to be more impulsive than their non-using counterparts. However, there has been little research on the behavioral components that, collectively, define the construct of impulsivity, which have been identified as: temporal discounting, risk taking, underestimating time, and failure to inhibit extraneous responding. This study compared people with psychotic disorders who did and did not use cocaine on behavioral measures of these components. One group (COC-now) had a positive urine drug screen (UDS) for cocaine (N=20). A second group (COC-past) had a negative UDS, but a positive cocaine history (N=20). Finally, the third group (control) had no history of cocaine use (N=20). Those with a current or past history of cocaine use engaged in more risk-taking behaviors and seemed to be less affected by anticipated loss and more attuned to monetary gains. However, contrary to our hypothesis, patients in the COC-now group selected larger, delayed rewards over the smaller, immediate rewards. Performance on the immediate/delay task also suggested greater attentiveness to the magnitude of the monetary reward for patients with a positive UDS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / classification
  • Impulsive Behavior / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychotic Disorders / complications*
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / urine
  • Young Adult