• Anxiety;
  • cocaine;
  • compulsivity;
  • coping;
  • environment;
  • impulsivity;
  • individual differences;
  • maladaptation


Cocaine use leads to addiction in only a subset of individuals. Understanding the mechanisms underlying these individual differences in the transition from cocaine use to cocaine abuse is important to develop treatment strategies. There is agreement that specific behavioural traits increase the risk for addiction. As such, both high impulsivity and high anxiety have been reported to predict (compulsive) cocaine self-administration behaviour. Here, we set out a new view explaining how these two behavioural traits may affect addictive behaviour. According to psychological and psychiatric evolutionary views, organisms flourish well when they fit (match) their environment by trait and genotype. However, under non-fit conditions, the need to compensate the failure to deal with this environment increases, and, as a consequence, the functional use of rewarding drugs like cocaine may also increase. It suggests that neither impulsivity nor anxiety are bad per se, but that the increased risk to develop cocaine addiction is dependent on whether behavioural traits are adaptive or maladaptive in the environment to which the animals are exposed. This ‘behavioural (mal)adaptation view’ on individual differences in vulnerability to cocaine addiction may help to improve therapies for addiction.