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Title: Inhibitory control, impulsivity, and recreational substance use
Author: Ward, Elizabeth Rebecca
ISNI:       0000 0004 2685 7205
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis explores the involvement of self-control and inhibitory control mechanisms in the early stages of drug use and addiction, and investigates specific psychological processes that are thought to be risk factors for substance use and abuse. An "Intention, Impulse and Control (lIC) framework" is developed, uniting principles drawn from a variety of contemporary perspectives in identifying factors likely to influence whether an individual encounters and engages in substance use. Interrelationships between different self-report and laboratory-based behavioural measures of the psychological constructs implicated by this framework are examined via a cross-sectional study of 497 undergraduate students. Reflecting other findings in the literature, associations between self-report and behavioural measures are found to be weak or non-existent. Factor analysis of the self-report measures yields indices of three key trait constructs: approach tendencies, avoidance tendencies, and cognitive control. The ensuing research programme tests some predictions of the lIC framework, assessing cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships in a large sample of students who use alcohol and other substances recreationally. Cross-sectional analyses probe the differential involvement of various factors including attitudes, recent stress, approach tendencies, avoidance tendencies, and cognitive control. Substance use is found to be strongly associated with attitudes, life stress, and cognitive control, but not with approach or avoidance tendencies. For a subset of 88 participants who were reassessed between one and two years after baseline testing, longitudinal analyses address whether (a) pre-existing impairments of self-control processes predispose some individuals towards substance abuse, and (b) substance use itself leads to diminished self-control. Although methodological limitations mean that caution is needed when interpreting these data, the analyses indicate no causal connections between cognitive control, either at baseline or in terms of change over time, and changes in substance use. The implications of the findings for current theories of addiction, and for future research, are considered.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral