Personality as a Risk Factor for Drug Abuse

1852 Words8 Pages
The term personality refers to those relatively enduring aspects of attitudes, feelings, responses, and behaviors that permit us to recognize a particular person whom we have known over time. It is, in a way, a fingerprint of an individual's psychological makeuphe framework of how the individual thinks and acts. Psychiatrists believe that this framework arises out of childhood, powerfully shaped by the actions of parenting and the other social and environmental factors on a complex set of genetic and other biological givens. It is then further molded throughout one's development to achieve more or less lasting form in adolescence and early adulthood. In the nineteenth century, we said that some people had willpower or a strong character; now we might refer to their good coping skills or to their ego strengthifferent ways of describing global measures of effective functioning. Current terms for more specific descriptors of personality might include the poles of introversionxtroversion, or approachvoidance, as well as others. There is a long tradition linking personality, or character, to alcohol and other substance use and abuse. In the popular imagination, the old usage of "alcoholic" or "drug fiend" conveyed images of weakness, untrustworthiness, and/or viciousness; more sophisticated imagery, "oral character," conveyed ideas of dependency and needinessnalogies to the greedy infant at the breast. Unfortunately, such simple postulates break down in the presence of the complexities of the real world: Not all substance abusers are frightening "drug fiends"; neither are they necessarily dependent, needy, demanding "oral characters." The explanation for substance abuse is not found purely in the drug. Most adults are able to drink socially without becoming alcoholics; some of us are repeatedly exposed to opiates (e.g., after surgery) without becoming addicts.
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