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Addict Behav. 2006 Feb;31(2):298-308. Epub 2005 Jun 9.

Differences in impulsivity and sensation seeking between early- and late-onset alcoholics.

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Psychiatric Centre Brothers Alexians, Provinciesteenweg 408, 2530 Boechout, Belgium.


The personality traits of impulsivity and sensation seeking have been proposed as important features of early-onset alcoholism. Early-onset (EOA, n=62) and late-onset (LOA, n=68 ) alcoholic inpatients were compared as to the severity of their substance use and related problems, and self-report scales measuring impulsivity (Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, version 11), sensation seeking (Sensation Seeking Scale), and aggressiveness (Buss Durkee Hostility Inventory). The symptom severity of the EOAs' alcohol-use disorder and related problems was higher than that of the LOAs. Furthermore, the EOAs had higher levels of impulsivity, sensation seeking, and aggression relative to the LOAs. The differences in impulsivity remained after an analysis controlling for the effect of aggressiveness. Finally, cigarette smoking was positively correlated with impulsiveness across alcoholic subgroups. Active screening for impulsive traits in treatment-seeking alcohol-abusing populations is recommended to improve treatment planning and prevent early drop-out.

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