Heroin and amphetamine users display opposite relationships between trait and neurobehavioral dimensions of impulsivity

Addict Behav. 2014 Mar;39(3):652-9. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2013.11.020. Epub 2013 Dec 1.


The multidimensional construct of impulsivity is implicated in all phases of the addiction cycle. Substance dependent individuals (SDIs) demonstrate elevated impulsivity on both trait and laboratory tests of neurobehavioral impulsivity; however our understanding of the relationship between these different aspects of impulsivity in users of different classes of drugs remains rudimentary. The goal of this study was to assess for commonalities and differences in the relationships between trait and neurobehavioral impulsivity in heroin and amphetamine addicts. Participants included 58 amphetamine dependent (ADIs) and 74 heroin dependent individuals (HDIs) in protracted abstinence. We conducted Principal Component Analyses (PCA) on two self-report trait and six neurobehavioral measures of impulsivity, which resulted in two trait impulsivity (action, planning) and four neurobehavioral impulsivity composites (discriminability, response inhibition efficiency, decision-making efficiency, quality of decision-making). Multiple regression analyses were used to determine whether neurobehavioral impulsivity is predicted by trait impulsivity and drug type. The analyses revealed a significant interaction between drug type and trait action impulsivity on response inhibition efficiency, which showed opposite relationships for ADIs and HDIs. Specifically, increased trait action impulsivity was associated with worse response inhibition efficiency in ADIs, but with better efficiency in HDIs. These results challenge the unitary account of drug addiction and contribute to a growing body of literature that reveals important behavioral, cognitive, and neurobiological differences between users of different classes of drugs.

Keywords: Amphetamine; Drug addiction; Heroin; Impulsivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Heroin Dependence / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Personality*
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self Report
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult