Methamphetamine use is such a big burden on the individual and also
at the societal level. Illicitly manufactured and distributed, methamphetamine is a toxic,
strong, highly addictive central nervous system stimulant. Using it can
cause disturbed sleep patterns, hyperactivity, nausea, delusions,
aggressiveness, irritability, confusion, anxiety and hallucinations.
Methamphetamine users who described themselves as impulsive were more
likely to have started taking the drug at an earlier age, revealed a study of
more than 150 users.
‘Methamphetamine users who described themselves as impulsive were more likely to have started taking the drug at an earlier age.’
Both attentional and motor impulsivity were linked to early meth
use, even when accounting for total years of use. On average, people who
use methamphetamine start at about age 22.
"It's really unclear if impulsivity is a contributor or a
consequence of early methamphetamine use; I think it's both," said Anita
Cservenka, an assistant professor in the School of Psychological
Science at Oregon State University, and co-author of the recent study in
the journal Addictive Behaviors
"Impulsivity is highly related to the number of years of using
methamphetamine, specifically in men. Our findings suggest that
impulsivity likely both contributes to using this substance and
increases as a result of using it."
The National Institute on Drug Abuse funded the study, and Lara A.
Ray of UCLA was the corresponding author. The researchers looked at 157
meth users' scores on the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, a widely used
self-reporting measure of impulsive personality traits.
Those in the study sample were between 18 and 50 years old, reported
using meth in the last 30 days, and reported not using any other
substances other than alcohol, tobacco or marijuana. The subjects were
free of major mental or physical health problems and were not seeking
treatment for their meth use.
The Barratt Impulsiveness Scale is broken into multiple types of
impulsivity, some of which include attentional and motor impulsivity.
Attentional impulsiveness has been defined as an inability to focus
attention or concentrate. Motor impulsiveness refers to a tendency to
act on whims.
About 1% of 12th-graders report having used meth at least
once, and more than 6% of people 26 and older have used meth in
"One possibility is that meth users are self-medicating," Cservenka
said. "If they have difficulty paying attention, they may try to use
meth to perhaps improve their attentional ability, as amphetamines are
clinically prescribed for this purpose."
Cservenka said, "We pay a lot for users' health
care because meth use impairs both psychosocial function and physical
health. These results suggest that if we find individuals during
adolescence who show elevated symptoms of impulsivity or a lack of
inhibitory control, they may be individuals we want to target for early
Cservenka says longitudinal studies - tracking subjects over time -
are needed to better determine if impulsivity is a trigger for early
"Because this was a cross-sectional study, we can't say that
impulsivity led to meth use," she said. "We can only suggest that
perhaps impulsivity might be a trait that individuals should pay
attention to in at-risk youth, especially when it comes to late
adolescence or young adulthood, when most meth use is initiated.
"We can only see the complete picture if we track adolescents at an
early age and then follow them into young adulthood to understand what
risk factors contribute to starting using a substance like meth.
Impulsivity may be one of them, but there are likely a number of other