Why are people drawn to drugs?

Psychology: Scientists seek the drug personality

You could say that a person's personality is something like the fingerprint of the psyche. In the course of life, it is carefully assembled piece by piece from genetic predispositions and experiences with the environment. Over the years, feelings, attitudes, likes and dislikes merge into a unity of thinking and acting.

This unique profile makes it possible to recognize someone and to assess and predict the behavior of a person.

Scientists have long targeted personality as a candidate when it comes to explaining why some people use drugs and become dependent on them - and others don't. Heiner Ellgring from the Institute for Psychotherapy and Medical Psychology at the University of Würzburg has summarized various studies with several thousand participants in an overview.

The result: especially people who are emotionally unstable and easily depressed tend to use drugs and become dependent on them. People with many vegetative complaints such as dizziness, sleep problems, migraines, tinnitus or shortness of breath are also more likely to resort to drugs than others.

Sensation seekers are more susceptible to drugs

A long-term study by the University of California at Berkeley also showed that people who found it difficult to control their impulses by the age of eleven were more likely to consume large amounts of marijuana regularly by the age of 18. And a study by Martin Ohlmeier from the University of Hanover found that 23 percent of the alcohol addicts examined had already been hyperactive as a child. In the case of those addicted to illegal drugs, it was even more than 50 percent.

The personality trait "sensation seeking" in particular seems to make people susceptible to drug use seeking “than the alcohol addicts. In addition to asking who is prone to drug addiction, it is an indication of how certain personality traits determine drug choice.

Personality development is crucial for therapy

However, there is a problem for researchers. Even if such a profile can be found for many drug addicts: From these characteristics alone, they cannot predict which slightly depressed adolescents will later become drug addicts and which will not. Attempts to do this regularly failed and so the scientists had to come up with something else. Instead of looking for a "drug personality", they are now concentrating more on personality development during drug addiction - this is more important for therapy anyway.

Because even if the personality is quite stable over time - it is not unchangeable. Smaller parts are constantly changing because they react and adapt to everyday life. "If you take drugs for years, your personality also changes because you perceive differently and also perceive completely different things," says the psychiatrist and psychotherapist Ralf Bolle from the University of Art Therapy in Nürtingen.

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