British researchers say that impulsivity seems to trigger addiction and not the other way around, Science magazine reported June 6.
People with addictions are known to be more impulsive and engage in more thrill-seeking behaviors than non-addicts, but it has been unclear whether those behaviors predated drug use or were the result of addiction.
Researchers David Belin and Barry Everitt of the University of Cambridge attempted to answer the question by studying rats known to have thrill-seeking or impulsive personalities. The researchers connected the rats to a device that delivered cocaine directly to their brains and then gave the rats control over their drug use. They found that the thrill-seeking rats tried the drug immediately and in high doses, while the impulsive rats used the drug less quickly and in greater moderation.
However, the authors found that after 40 days of access to the drug the impulsive rats had become addicted and could not stop using cocaine even when punished with an electric shock, while the thrill-seeking rats had grown tired of the drug and stopped using.
The research study is published in the June 6, 2008 edition of Science magazine.
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