Psychopathic traits and substance use

Co-occurrence and overlapping etiological pathways

Authored by: Edelyn Verona , Amy Hoffmann , Bethany Edwards

Routledge International Handbook of Psychopathy and Crime

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138085169
eBook ISBN: 9781315111476
Adobe ISBN:


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The review of studies on psychopathic traits supports connections between substance use and a subset of psychopathy features, specifically the impulsive–antisocial facets. Vulnerabilities in affective processing and inhibitory control deficits, as well as environmental disadvantage, seem to be shared across substance use and psychopathic traits. Specifically, early temperaments marked by disinhibition and altered reward processing may shape, and be shaped by, interpersonal and environmental influences that may result in increased disadvantage, higher levels of negative affect, and reduced effective coping skills. The combination of temperamental tendencies toward sensation seeking and maladaptive attempts to cope with adverse circumstances may precipitate the early onset of substance use and associated engagement in deviant behaviors.

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