Predicting relapse among substance abusers as a function of personality dimensions
Ottomanelli, Lisa A.
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Relapse is such a common phenomenon among substance abusers that it is considered a core feature of addiction (O'Brien et al., 1991), hence, it is important to try to gain an understanding of the factors that contribute to relapse. One way of approaching this task is to identify individual differences among substance abuse patients, such as differences in level of psychopathology or in personality characteristics, that appear to be risk factors for relapse. There is a growing body of literature documenting the association between psychopathology and relapse (e.g.,McLellan, 1986; Rounsaville et al., 1982); however, despite the large amount of research on personality and addiction in general (Cox & Klinger, 1987), there is a notable lack of studies specifically examining personality and relapse. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the role personality characteristics play in the relapse process. Approximately 108 inpatients from a chemical dependency unit serving the southwestern region of the United States participated in the present study. These subjects were assessed in terms of the five-factor model of personality (Digman, 1990) as measured by the NEO Personality Inventory (Costa & McCrae, 1985) and followed for one year after completion of the inpatient treatment program. Survival analysis techniques revealed different survival rates over time for the various drug of choice categories examined in the study. Moreover, two of the five NEO-PI factors were significantly related to time of relapse. Patients high in neuroticism relapsed more quickly than patients low in neuroticism and patients low in conscientiousness relapsed more quickly than patients high in conscientiousness. Treatment implications of these personality findings are discussed, along with limitations of the present study and directions for future research.