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Tips for Separating Personality Disorders and Opiate Abuse

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While debate continues regarding “addictive personalities,” psychologists and substance abuse professions agree certain personality disorders may be associated with opiate addiction. However, concrete evidence of the correlation is difficult, as diagnosable symptoms can be exacerbated by opiate use. Is it a mental health issue or a symptom of addiction?

A Look at the Numbers

Statistics show only 34 percent of dual-diagnosed individuals ever seeks treatment. And the interrelationship between opiate addiction and personality disorders creates a destructive – often tragic – cycle.

According to a well-known study, three categorical personality types are distinguishable among 53 opiate addicts. Participates in the test exhibited personality traits associated with borderline disorder, thought disorders and depression.

Although each person is unique – and there is no absolute rule when it comes to treating opiate addiction – it is certainly important to consider how individual personalities could increase the incidence of addiction.

Borderline Personality Traits

The study showed 40 percent of individuals exhibited signs of borderline personality disorder.  The personality type is characterized by unstable emotions, a “black and white” view of interpersonal relationships, impulsivity and paranoia. Opiate use may initially alleviate emotional stress caused by irrational fears, but compulsive behavior may worsen the chance of continual use and addiction.

Thought Disorder Traits

Although thought disorders are typically associated with schizophrenia, psychosis and disorganized thinking are also common in mania. According to the study, 30 percent of addicts exhibited disordered thinking patterns, and additional studies have shown a high correlation between thought disorders and opiate use as a method of self-medication. Opiate addiction will not cause thought disorders, such as schizophrenia, but it can significantly worsen symptoms.

Depressive Personality Traits

The study reports 28 percent of opiate addicts showed symptoms of depression, characterized by consistent feelings of hopelessness and sadness, loss of interest in normal activities and reckless behavior. A double-edge sword, these feelings are regulated by opioid receptors in the brain, and opiates attach to these receptors, creating a sense of well-being. However, the neural process becomes dependent on opiate use, promoting addiction and worsening depression.

Putting Research to Good Use

Differentiating these personality traits as causes for opiate addiction versus symptoms of addiction is difficult. However, it’s important to recognize certain personality traits when opiate use is involved – even if they are legitimately prescribed medications.

Also, there are some valuable treatment options for dual-diagnosed individuals. And those who actively address both their addiction and co-occurring mental health issues have a significantly better chance enjoying fulfilling, successful and drug-free lives.


Learn more about drug abuse and how it affects the body and mind.


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