So…you might be like: Oh wow! Substance abuse and addiction is associated with impaired impulse control?! Tell me something I don’t already know! It’s true.
It seems pretty no brainer (pardon the pun). If we define impulse control as the space between thinking about doing something and actually doing something, it makes perfect sense — and we have all experienced either ourselves or someone else with literally no impulse control under the influence of whatever. But, this research is interesting because it actually analyzes the data from 97 different studies in which they looked at performance on one or both of two tests that measure inhibition (the ability to not act in response to something).
They found that inhibitory deficits (decreased ability to NOT do something) were associated with heavy use of cocaine, MDMA, methamphetamine, tobacco, alcohol and in pathological gamblers. On the other hand, no evidence for an inhibitory deficit was observed for heroin/pain pills and marijuana. This totally flies in the face of “I can stop whenever I want!”
Now the question is the chicken and the egg. There is certainly evidence that individuals can be born with impaired impulse control, putting them at risk for developing addiction before they even try any drug or take the first drink. On the other hand, we know that alcohol and other drugs alter the functioning of the parts of the brain that are responsible for impulse control, making it hard to not take a drink when your thoughts are saying take a drink.
So the take home idea is JUST SAY NO! Or at least know that when you say yes, your impulse control will definitely be affected — meaning even when you want to say no to that third drink, the first and second drinks are impairing your impulse control making it much more likely that you will actually say yes.
Here is a link to the whole article: http://www.drugandalcoholdependence.com/article/S0376-8716(14)01037-0/abstract?cc=y
This blog can be found in its entirety on my website at www.nzingaharrisonmd.com