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Relationship of Aggression, Sensation Seeking, and Impulsivity, With Severity of Cocaine Use

Murray, Heather W. MS; Patkar, Ashwin A. MD; Mannelli, Paolo MD; DeMaria, Peter MD; Desai, Anup M MD; Vergare, Michael J MD

Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment: December 2003 - Volume 2 - Issue 4 - p 113-121
Original Articles

We investigated whether pretreatment measures of sensation seeking, impulsivity, and aggression were related to severity of cocaine use. Assessments of sensation seeking (SSS), impulsivity (BIS), and aggression (BDHI) were obtained for 140 African-American cocaine-dependent individuals entering outpatient treatment. We explored whether these variables were associated with addiction severity measures including quantity, frequency, and duration of cocaine use, scores on the Addiction Severity Index (ASI), and the admission urine drug screen status. A significant positive association was found between the total BDHI score and duration and frequency of cocaine use. Furthermore, SSS scores showed a significant positive correlation with frequency of cocaine use and cocaine positive admission urines. The BIS scores were significantly associated with 2 of the 7 ASI scales. Multiple regression analyses showed that the 3 measures contributed significantly toward predicting severity of cocaine use, but the contribution to the overall variance was modest. Measures of aggression and sensation seeking seem to be of clinical value in the assessment of cocaine abusers. However, these measures may need to be combined with other clinical and behavioral variables to accurately predict the severity of cocaine use.

From the Division of Substance Abuse Programs, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA 19107.

A part of this data was presented at the American Psychiatric Association's 156th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, May 17–22, 2003.

Reprints: Ashwin A. Patkar, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, 833 Chestnut Street, Suite 210-E, Philadelphia, PA 19107 (e-mail:

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