Industrial Psychiatry Journal

: 2015  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 35--39

A Study of personality profile and criminal behavior in substance abusers

Atul Aggarwal1, Supriya Vaish2, DK Sharma3, CS Sushil3, Nashat Usman2, S Sudarsanan2,  
1 Department of Psychiatry, Gajra Raja Medical College, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India
2 Department of Psychiatry, Subharti Medical College, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, India
3 Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College and M. B. S. Hospital, Kota, Rajasthan, India

Correspondence Address:
Supriya Vaish
134, Ram Sadan, Baghpat Road, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh


Aim: The aim of the present study was to study the personality characteristics and criminal behavior in the substance abusers. The role of various sociodemographic variables in substance abusers, which affected their criminal behavior was also studied. Moreover, in the present study, the personality profile of substance users and nonusers was compared using psychoticism, extraversion, and neuroticism (PEN) inventory. Materials and Methods: A total of 50 consecutive subjects diagnosed as per International Classification of Diseases-10 criteria for substance abuse, fulfilling the inclusive and exclusive criteria were taken. A well-matched control was also assessed to compare the studied subject using a well-designed semi-structured proforma and PEN inventory. Results: Most of the substance abusers were Hindus, married, belonged to 21-30 age group and urban domicile, and were presently unemployed, educated up to middle class, and belonged to lower socioeconomic status. Family history of substance use was significant in the subjects, and the chief substance of use was opioids. Scores for psychoticism and neuroticism, as well as the criminal behavior was significantly higher in studied subjects. Conclusion: Thus, conclusions drawn were that personality characteristics of the substance abusers differed significantly from the control group and second, the number of variables including occupational status, socioeconomic status, family history of substance use, and type of substance of abuse significantly correlated with the criminal behavior in the substance abusers. Identifying these variables can be the first step in the intervention in substance abusers in order to reduce their future criminal behavior.

How to cite this article:
Aggarwal A, Vaish S, Sharma D K, Sushil C S, Usman N, Sudarsanan S. A Study of personality profile and criminal behavior in substance abusers.Ind Psychiatry J 2015;24:35-39

How to cite this URL:
Aggarwal A, Vaish S, Sharma D K, Sushil C S, Usman N, Sudarsanan S. A Study of personality profile and criminal behavior in substance abusers. Ind Psychiatry J [serial online] 2015 [cited 2022 Dec 8 ];24:35-39
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Substance abuse is a complex phenomenon, which has various social, cultural, biological, geographical, historical, and economic aspects. [1] A recent large study estimates that problem with drug or alcohol abuse affects over 1 in 5 adults at some point during their lifetimes. [2] India too is caught in this vicious circle of drug abuse, and the number of drug addicts is increasing day by day. According to a UN report, 1 million heroin addicts are registered in India. Cannabis, heroin, and Indian-produced pharmaceutical drugs are the most frequently abused drugs in India. The pharmaceutical products containing narcotic drugs are also increasingly being abused. The intravenous injections of analgesics like dextropropoxphene etc., are also reported from many states, as it is easily available at 1/10 th the cost of heroin. [2]

Substantial research has focused on the association between personality disorders and substance abuse among adults. [3,4] In a number of studies, researchers have found that adults with certain types of personality disorders are at elevated risk for developing substance use disorders and that adult patients diagnosed with substance use disorders are likely to have comorbid personality disorders. [5] Studies suggest that the drug or alcohol user are subjectively distressed and are inclined to be socially nonconforming and impulsive. These individuals are usually low on emotional stability, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. [6],[7]

Drug abuse has been invariably linked to criminal behavior and has led to a detrimental impact on the society. [8] It may lead to increase in the crime rate. Addicts may resort to crime to pay for their drugs. Drugs remove inhibition and impair judgment engaging one to commit offences. Crime and its relation to various psychological factors and substance seeking behavior have always been a subject of debate. Most observers agree that committing a crime requires a multi-factorial perspective viz., social, economic, psychological factors; and psychiatric aspects, besides law, and criminal justice systems. [9],[10],[11],[12]

In Indian perspective, there is a dearth of research regarding the impact of complicated and possibly dual relationship of the extremely disturbing problem of substance abuse and criminality. Thus, we report this study regarding the personality characteristics of substance abusers and their relationship with the criminal behavior.

 Materials and Methods

The present study was conducted to study the various personality characteristics of substance abusers and also to assess the criminal behavior in them. This study was carried out by in the Department of Psychiatry, M.B.S Hospital attached to Government Medical College, Kota. 50 consecutive patients of substance abuse attending the psychiatric outpatient department were evaluated using a self-structured proforma which included identification data, family details, detail history, and self-report regarding substance abuse, and criminal behavior. A well-matched control group of 50 people who were mostly patient's attendants, preferably the family members were taken up for the study. Patients who gave written consent and fulfilled the criteria of substance abuse according to International Classification of Diseases-10 as confirmed by a consultant psychiatrist, and ranged from age group 18-60 years were taken up. Persons suffering from major medical, surgical illness, epileptic disorders, and head trauma; criminal behavior prior to onset of substance use and physical or sexual abuse and also with family history of any form of criminal behavior were excluded from the study. A self-designed semi-structured proforma was used to collect data which included details of identification, sociodemographic characteristics (name, age, sex, occupation etc.), history of substance abuse (drug-seeking behavior, type of substance etc.), and details regarding criminal behavior which included behaviors ranging from petty thefts, offences against the person, against the property, violent crimes (fraud, sexual offences, thefts, murder). Psychoticism, extraversion, and neuroticism (PEN) Inventory developed by Eyesenck and Sybil Eyesenck (1969) which measures orthogonally independent dimensions of temperament viz., extraversion-introversion, neuroticism-stability, and psychoticism/tough-mindedness, which reflect major variance in the personality domain was used. After establishing rapport and assuring the subjects regarding maintaining the confidentiality of the information revealed by the subject, necessary instructions were given to them to fill the proforma. Data so collected were displayed in tabulated form and were analyzed using suitable statistical analysis, and conclusions were drawn.


The present study was aimed and designed to find out the various personality characteristics of the subjects indulged in substance abuse and their criminal behavior was also studied [Table 1] [Table 2] [Table 3] [Table 4] [Table 5].{Table 1}{Table 2}{Table 3}{Table 4}{Table 5}

There is a huge amount of interest among International Medical Fraternity to study various variables related to substance use behavior, as well as criminal behavior, and to explore various correlations and associations between the two among all age groups. There are many contrasting reports pertaining to various variables such as socioeconomic status, parental use of the substance, education and occupational status, and personality profile of the substance users. In our study, lower education status was significantly associated with substance use. Similarly, in a cross-sectional study of 5427 adolescents conducted in Brisbane, Australia, low school achievement was associated with adolescent substance use. [13] Employment and occupational status of the substance users in previous studies report strikingly similar findings to ours. A prospective cohort study assessing the relation between unemployment and substance use found that men who had experienced more than 3 years of accumulated unemployment between the ages of 16 and 33 years were more likely to engage in problem drinking than were men who had never been unemployed. [14] Socioeconomic status has received much attention as a social variable in substance use related studies. Unlike our study where we could not establish any significant relation between socioeconomic status and the substance use behavior, a case-control study among African-American heroin users, reported that lower familial socioeconomic status was associated significantly with heroin use among persons. [15] In contrast, a cross-sectional study, of 262 California adolescents found no consistent relation between family socioeconomic status and substance use. [16] Furthermore, family history of substance use was found to be significantly present among substance users in our study, similarly, a study parental use of the substance was significantly associated with adolescent substance use. [13]

In comparing the personality characteristics based on PEN inventory between the substance users and control group, it was observed that the studied group had significantly higher neuroticism and psychoticism scores. Further, although the controls scored higher on extraversion scale, it was not statistically significant. Previously, various studies like by Müller et al., Porrata JL, Rosa A (2000), have reported psychoticism scores and/or neuroticism scores to be higher in substance abusers. [17],[18],[19],[20],[21],[22]

In our study, history of criminal behavior was significantly higher in substance abusers (46%) as compared to the controls (10%). Similarly, in a follow-up study of criminality in drug addicts in Norway, 84% had committed offences, compared to 25% of the control group. Drug abuse leads to increase in crime rates. [23-25] About two third of substance abusers with history of crime were educated up to either primary or middle class and were either presently unemployed (47.8%) or never employed (21.7%) while about one-fourth of substance abusers without history of crime were either presently unemployed (18.5%) or never employed (7.4%) showing that unemployment was significantly more in substance abusers with history of crime. [26] More than 90% of substance abusers with a history of crime belonged to a lower socioeconomic class, which was significant in comparison to the control group. Singh and Verma found that 74% of the criminals came from lower and middle socioeconomic status. [27,28] Substance abusers with a history of crime belonged to the urban background in 86.9% cases. Assadi et al. 2006 found that 75% of the prisoners belonged to the urban background. [29] The criminal behavior was found to be significantly more in opioid abusers (82.6%), followed by alcohol abusers (13%), and multi substance abuser group (4.3%). Studies have reported that crime and opioid use tends to influence each other. [31] In a study, it was reported that maximum number of the convicted prisoners were under the influence of alcohol while committing the crime. [30]


Substance abusers scored significantly higher on psychoticism (40%) and neuroticism (64%), also, history of criminal behavior was found significantly more in substance abusers (46%) as compared to normal controls (10%). Educational status, occupation affected the tendency of crime in substance abusers. Urban background, opioid use followed by alcohol was the determinants identified, which were significantly present in substance abusers with criminal behavior. A number of determinants were identified, which were commonly associated in substance abusers who also had a criminal behavior as compared to substance abusers without criminal behavior.

Thus, to conclude there are various variables, which affect the substance use, personality profile and criminal behavior in an individual. More studies need to be planned to establish the role of these determinants, which can be identified at an earlier stage of substance use and interventions can be done to reduce criminal behavior.


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