The Complexity of Impulsivity Dimensions among Abstinent Individuals with Substance Use Disorders

J Psychoactive Drugs. 2023 Sep-Oct;55(4):471-482. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2022.2113482. Epub 2022 Aug 23.


Impulsivity is a complex construct that has been operationalized considering personality dimensions (e.g., negative urgency [NU], lack of perseverance [LPe], lack of premeditation [LPr], positive urgency [PU]), and neuropsychological processes (i.e., cognitive disinhibition, motor disinhibition, impulsive decision-making). Empirical research suggested that they could represent core features of substance use disorders (SUDs). However, there are no studies that have comprehensively assessed them among patients with SUDs. Furthermore, the quality of relationships among such domains remains unclear. The current case-control study included 59 abstinent patients with SUDs and 56 healthy controls (HCs). There were two independent assessment phases: i) the administration of UPPS-P impulsive behavior scale; ii) a computerized neuropsychological battery (i.e., Attentional Network Test, Go/No-Go task, Iowa Gambling task). Patients with SUDs reported higher levels of NU and PU than HCs. NU, LPe, and LPr were associated to the co-occurrence of multiple SUDs. Motor disinhibition was the core dimension of SUDs. Cognitive disinhibition and Impulsive decision-making were also associated to SUDs. Self-report and neuropsychological dimensions of impulsivity were not correlated within the clinical group. HCs showed significant associations among these domains of impulsivity. Impulsivity should be viewed as a complex system of personality traits and neuropsychological processes among individuals with SUDs.

Keywords: Impulsivity; neuropsychological dimensions; personality traits; substance use disorders; treatment targets.