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Impulsivity and Substance Use in Young Adulthood


Address correspondence to Dr. Shin, Boston University School of Social Work, 264 Bay State Road, Boston University, School of Social Work, Boston, MA 02215. E-mail:


Background and Objectives

Although the significant role of impulsive personality on substance use has been widely documented, distinct aspects of impulsivity and their relation to substance use during young adulthood have received scant attention. We sought to fill this research gap and explored impulsivity subtraits in relation to hazardous drinking and illicit substance use in young adulthood.


The present study used cross-sectional survey data collected from a community sample of 257 young adults aged 18–25 (53% female). Data were primarily analyzed by three different types of regression models.


We found impulsivity to be more strongly associated with illicit substance use than hazardous drinking during young adulthood. Among the four impulsivity subtraits examined, lack of premeditation (p < .01) and sensation seeking (p < .05) were significantly related to illicit substance use in young adulthood.

Conclusions and Significance

These findings suggest that each impulsivity subtrait might play different roles in illicit substance use during young adulthood. For young adults, assessment of differential patterns of impulsive personality in individuals with substance use problems may have important implication for treatment strategies. (Am J Addict 2013;22:39-45)