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Sensation-seeking, reward sensitivity and early cannabis use

Date:
December 10, 2015
Source:
American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
Summary:
Sensation seeking, or the tendency to seek out exciting experiences, has been linked to addiction. Researchers have reported that sensation seeking is related to reward sensitivity in teens, and that a school-based intervention that targeted sensation seeking delays the onset of cannabis use, and slows the progression from light to heavy cannabis use in teens.
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Sensation seeking is a personality trait that describes a person's tendency to seek out novel and exciting experiences, and a high level of sensation seeking has been implicated as a risk factor for addiction. According to a report at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, in Hollywood, Florida, sensation seeking is related to reward sensitivity, which is a trait that characterizes how rewarding a person finds different experiences. Further, reward sensitivity is itself related to cannabis use, and partially explains the relationship between it and sensation seeking. Importantly, the researchers describe a school-based psychological intervention that both targets sensation seeking and affects the use of cannabis in teens, delaying the onset of first use, and slowing the progression from light to heavy cannabis use in teens already using.

In a very large sample of nearly 4000 adolescents, Dr. Patricia Conrod and her colleagues at the University of Montreal and Le Centre hospitalier universitaire Sainte-Justine evaluated reward sensitivity over time. The degree of reward sensitivity was determined using a laboratory "go-no go" task, in which individuals are instructed as to when to act and when not to act, in order to obtain reward or avoid punishment. The investigators found that reward sensitivity develops differently in boys and girls and is related to whether sensation seeking is high or low. More details about this and related studies can be found online at http://www.co-venture.ca, which describes the Co-Venture Trial, in which personality-targeted interventions are evaluated for their impact on 5-year addiction outcomes and cognitive functioning.

Dr. Conrod's study suggests that psychological interventions aimed at helping youth manage sensation seeking and reward sensitivity may help reduce cannabis use. This may be particularly timely, given that teens perceive cannabis use as being low risk, even in the face of increasing evidence that cannabis use can negatively affect the developing brain and its cognitive functions.


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


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American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. "Sensation-seeking, reward sensitivity and early cannabis use." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 December 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151210181622.htm>.
American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. (2015, December 10). Sensation-seeking, reward sensitivity and early cannabis use. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 24, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151210181622.htm
American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. "Sensation-seeking, reward sensitivity and early cannabis use." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151210181622.htm (accessed August 24, 2016).