Using Intrapersonal Emotional Awareness, Personality Characteristics, and Impulsivity to Predict Substance Use

Previous research has demonstrated that lower emotional awareness, lower conscientiousness, and higher neuroticism scores correlate with substance use. Additionally, substance users have been found to have more difficulty controlling their impulses. Nonetheless, research has not examined whether drug use behaviors can be specifically predicted by intrapersonal emotional awareness (IEA; an inability to recognize and manage one’s own feelings). Thus, the purpose of this study was to determine if IEA is a predictor of drug use behaviors, and if it is more predictive of drug use than impulsivity or personality characteristics. It was hypothesized that lower IEA would have greater predictive power of drug use frequency and intoxication in a sample of college students than the influence of personality characteristics or ability to control impulses. To assess these hypotheses, the Schutte Emotional Intelligence Scale, Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11, NEO-FFI, MCSD-scale form C, and two drug use questionnaires were administered. Participants (N = 181) reported using alcohol most commonly, followed by marijuana. Results show that when suppressed by conscientiousness, IEA predicted both frequency of substance use during the past two weeks and intoxication from substance use during the past six months. Although these results do not support the hypotheses that IEA was the most robust predictor of substance use, it does give evidence that IEA is a predictor when conscientiousness acts as a suppressor. This study contributes to existing empirical evidence, demonstrating the etiologies of drug use and the importance of examining both IEA and conscientiousness together when substance use programs are designed.