Sensation seeking, sexual orientation, and drug abuse symptoms in a community sample of emerging adults. Academic Article uri icon


  • Increased use of drugs is associated with a number of factors including high sensation seeking and sexual minority status (through group-specific minority stress). We sought to examine how personality traits like sensation seeking may influence drug abuse among sexual minority individuals. Participants were 217 emerging adults (Mage = 20.23, SD = 0.85) recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk). Of these participants, 67.7% identified as heterosexual, 9.7% as gay or lesbian, 21.2% as bisexual, and 1.4% indicated other sexual orientations. Sensation seeking and drug abuse were self-reported using the Brief Sensation Seeking Scale and the Drug Abuse Screening Test, respectively. A preliminary multiple analysis of variance indicated no significant mean differences for these variables as a function of sex or sexual orientation. Next, sexual minority status, Brief Sensation Seeking Scale scores, sex and their interactions were entered into a linear regression predicting Drug Abuse Screening Test scores. Results revealed a significant moderation, such that the positive relationship between Brief Sensation Seeking Scale total scores and Drug Abuse Screening Test total scores was stronger for sexual minorities ( = 0.14, P = 0.00) compared to heterosexuals ( = 0.04, P = 0.04), controlling for sex. These results demonstrate, while sensation seeking and sexual minority status may selectively indicate risk for drug use, sexual minorities high in sensation seeking may be at especially high risk for problems related to drug abuse. More research examining the addiction etiology of sexual minority individuals would inform targeted interventions for this population.

published proceedings

  • Behav Pharmacol

altmetric score

  • 2.35

author list (cited authors)

  • Regan, T., Thamotharan, S., Hahn, H., Harris, B., Engler, S., Schueler, J., & Fields, S. A.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Regan, Timothy||Thamotharan, Sneha||Hahn, Hunter||Harris, Bethany||Engler, Solangia||Schueler, Jordan||Fields, Sherecce A

publication date

  • February 2020