Age and impulsive behavior in drug addiction: A review of past research and future directions

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Abstract

Impulsive behavior is implicated in the initiation, maintenance, and relapse of drug-seeking behaviors involved in drug addiction. Research shows that changes in impulsive behavior across the lifespan contribute to drug use and addiction. The goal of this review is to examine existing research on the relationship between impulsive behavior and drug use across the lifespan and to recommend directions for future research. Three domains of impulsive behavior are explored in this review: impulsive behavior-related personality traits, delay discounting, and prepotent response inhibition. First, we present previous research on these three domains of impulsive behavior and drug use across developmental stages. Then, we discuss how changes in impulsive behavior across the lifespan are implicated in the progression of drug use and addiction. Finally, we discuss the relatively limited attention given to middle-to-older adults in the current literature, consider the validity of the measures used to assess impulsive behavior in middle-to-older adulthood, and suggest recommendations for future research.

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