The Association Between Personality Traits and Substance Use Among Advanced Level Students in Western Province, Sri Lanka: A Cross-sectional Study

Document Type : Original Article


1 Research and Innovation Division- KIU, Sri Lanka

2 Department of Psychology-KIU, Sri Lanka



Background: While personality predominantly influences human cognition, emotion, and behavior, there is still an unresolved 
research gap concerning the association between personality and substance use within the Sri Lankan context.
Methods: This descriptive cross-sectional study aimed to investigate the association between personality traits and substance use 
among advanced-level students aged over 18 in Western province, Sri Lanka, in 2023. Data collection was carried out using selfadministered paper-pencil questionnaires. The study variables were measured using the brief version of the Big Five Personality 
Inventory and the Alcohol, Smoking, and Substance Involvement Questionnaire. Data analysis involved the use of the chi-square 
test and Spearman correlation.
Findings: Of the 441 enrolled participants, 422 provided correct responses to the questionnaire. Among them, 154 (36.5%) reported 
substance use. The majority of students initiated substance use at the age of 17. The results reveal a significant association between 
the openness personality trait and substance use among advanced-level students in Western province. Additionally, there was a 
statistically significant positive correlation between the extroversion personality trait and amphetamine use among advanced-level 
Conclusion: The findings highlight a significant association between specific personality traits, particularly openness and 
extroversion, and substance use among advanced-level students in Western province, Sri Lanka. These results emphasize the 
significance of considering personality factors in understanding and addressing substance use behaviors among youth populations. 
Further research and targeted interventions are necessary to delve deeper into these associations and develop effective prevention 
and intervention strategies.


Janitha Charuni Thennakoon: (Google Scholar) (PubMed)

Dilantha Deva Adithiya: (Google Scholar) (PubMed)

Akila Randika Jayamaha: (Google Scholar) (PubMed)


  1. Kilpatrick DG, Acierno R, Saunders B, Resnick HS, Best CL, 
    Schnurr PP. Risk factors for adolescent substance abuse and 
    dependence: data from a national sample. J Consult Clin 
    Psychol. 2000;68(1):19-30. doi:10.1037//0022-006x.68.1.19.
    2. Nathan PE. The addictive personality is the behavior of 
    the addict. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1988;56(2):183-8. doi: 
    3. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Contemporary 
    Issues on Drugs. 2023.
    4. Aguilar S, Gutiérrez V, Sánchez L, Nougier M. Medicinal 
    Cannabis Policies and Practices Around the World. 
    International Drug Policy Consortium; 2018.
    5. Arbour L, Bém P, Branson R, Cattaui M, Cardoso FH, Clark 
    H, et al. Classification of Psychoactive Substances: When 
    Science Was Left Behind. Global Comission on Drug Policy; 
    2019. p. 55.
    6. Parsons J, Neath S. Minimizing Harm: Public Health and 
    Justice System Responses to Drug Use and the Opioid Crisis. 
    New York, NY: Vera Institute of Justice; 2017.
    7. Sreeramareddy CT, Aye SN, Venkateswaran SP. Tobacco use 
    and betel quid chewing among adults in Myanmar- estimates 
    and social determinants from demographic and health survey, 
    2015-16. BMC Public Health. 2021;21(1):277. doi: 10.1186/
    8. Dissabandara LO, Dias SR, Dodd PR, Stadlin A. Patterns of 
    substance use in male incarcerated drug users in Sri Lanka. 
    Drug Alcohol Rev. 2009;28(6):600-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-
    9. Kamaladshan S, Thusiya A, Sivakanthan S, Surenthirakumaran 
    R. Prevalence of Substance Abuse and Associated Factors 
    on Substance Abuse Among G.C.E Advanced Level students 
    in the Nallur Educational Division. Faculty of Medicine, 
    University of Jaffna; 2018.
    10. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.The TEDS Report: Age of Substance Use Initiation among 
    Treatment Admissions Aged 18 to 30. Center for Behavioral 
    Health Statistics and Quality; 2014. p. 1-6. Available from:
    11. Fedotov Y. Drugs and Age. United Nations Office on Drugs 
    and Crime; 2018. doi: 10.18356/dbd47a51-en.
    12. Richesson D, Hoenig JM. Key Substance Use and Mental 
    Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 
    National Survey on Drug Use and Health. In: HHS Publication 
    No. PEP19-5068, NSDUH Series H-54 (Vol. 170). Rockville, 
    MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 
    Retrieved from
    13. Smith KB, Smith CA. The relational approach to presidential 
    communication: the Ford/Carter coalitions. J Appl Commun 
    Res. 1979;7(2):135-52. doi: 10.1080/00909887909365203.
    14. WHO Regional Office for Africa. Substance Abuse. WHO 
    Regional Office for Africa; 2023. Available from: https://www.
    15. Walton KE, Roberts BW. On the relationship between 
    substance use and personality traits: abstainers are not 
    maladjusted. J Res Pers. 2004;38(6):515-35. doi: 10.1016/j.
    16. Hsu LN. Drug use and the family. World Health. 
    17. Kirby J, Van der Sluijs W, Inchley J. Young People and Substance 
    Use: The Influence of Personal, Social and Environmental 
    Factors on Substance Use Among Adolescents in Scotland. 
    Edinburgh: NHS Health Scotland; 2008.
    18. Seid L, Gintamo B, Mekuria ZN, Hassen HS, Gizaw Z. 
    Substance use and associated factors among preparatory 
    school students in Kolfe-Keranyo sub-city of Addis Ababa, 
    Ethiopia. Environ Health Prev Med. 2021;26(1):110. doi: 
    19. Gutral J, Cypryańska M, Nezlek JB. Normative based beliefs 
    as a basis for perceived changes in personality traits across 
    the lifespan. PLoS One. 2022;17(2):e0264036. doi: 10.1371/
    20. Matthews G, Deary IJ, Whiteman MC. Personality Traits. 
    2nd ed. Cambridge University Press; 2003. doi: 10.1017/
    21. Naziamohib. Parenting Style Effects on Children 
    Personality. Medium; 2022. Available from: https://
    22. Suárez-Maldonado MT, Natera-Rey G, Castillo Lozada CE. 
    Association between substance use and personality among 
    school children aged 10-13. Rev Int Investig Addcciones. 
    2019;5(2):1-7. doi: 10.28931/riiad.2019.2.01.
    23. Cooper ML, Frone MR, Russell M, Mudar P. Drinking to 
    regulate positive and negative emotions: a motivational model 
    of alcohol use. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1995;69(5):990-1005. doi: 
    24. Hurd NM, Zimmerman MA, Xue Y. Negative adult influences 
    and the protective effects of role models: a study with urban 
    adolescents. J Youth Adolesc. 2009;38(6):777-89. doi: 
    25. Khan I, Shah SA. Personality characteristics of male substance 
    dependents: a correlational study. Indian J Health Wellbeing. 
    26. Gamage AU, Jayawardana PL. Knowledge of noncommunicable diseases and practices related to healthy 
    lifestyles among adolescents, in state schools of a selected 
    educational division in Sri Lanka. BMC Public Health. 
    2017;18(1):64. doi: 10.1186/s12889-017-4622-z.
    27. Fehrman E, Egan V, Gorban AN, Levesley J, Mirkes EM, 
    Muhammad AK. Personality Traits and Drug Consumption. 
    Springer International Publishing; 2019. doi: 10.1007/978-3-
    28. Diener E, Lucas RE, Cummings JA. 16.1 Personality 
    Traits. Pressbooks; 2019. Available from: https://
    personalitytraits/#:~:text = Personality%20traits%20
    29. Goldberg LR. The structure of phenotypic personality 
    traits. Am Psychol. 1993;48(1):26-34. doi: 10.1037//0003-
    30. Babcock SE, Wilson CA. Big five model of personality. In: 
    Carducci BJ, Nave CS, Fabio A, Saklofske DH, Stough C, 
    eds. The Wiley Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual 
    Differences. Wiley; 2020. p. 55-60.
    31. Mercado A, Rogers DL, Rodriguez CC, Villarreal D, 
    Terracciano A, Nguyen-Finn K. Personality and substance use 
    in Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. Int J Ment Health Addict. 
    2016;14(6):907-20. doi: 10.1007/s11469-016-9639-5.
    32. Oshio A, Taku K, Hirano M, Saeed G. Resilience and Big 
    Five personality traits: a meta-analysis. Personality and 
    Individual Differences. 2018; 127: 54–60. doi:10.1016/j.
    33. Soto CJ. Big five personality traits. In: The SAGE Encyclopedia 
    of Lifespan Human Development. Thousand Oaks: SAGE 
    Publications; 2018.
    34. Cherry K. What Are the Big 5 Personality Traits? Verywell 
    Mind; 2023. Available from:
    35. De Kock C, Decorte T, Schamp J, Vanderplasschen W, Hauspie 
    B, Derluyn I, et al. Substance Use Among People with a 
    Migration Background: A Community-Based Participatory 
    Research Study. 2016. Available from:
    36. Turiano NA, Whiteman SD, Hampson SE, Roberts BW, 
    Mroczek DK. Personality and Substance Use in Midlife: 
    Conscientiousness as a Moderator and the Effects of Trait 
    Change. J Res Pers. 2012 Jun 1;46(3):295-305. doi: 10.1016/j.
    37. Sutin AR, Evans MK, Zonderman AB. Personality traits and 
    illicit substances: the moderating role of poverty. Drug 
    Alcohol Depend. 2013;131(3):247-51. doi: 10.1016/j.
    38. Turiano NA, Whiteman SD, Hampson SE, Roberts BW, 
    Mroczek DK. Personality and substance use in midlife: 
    conscientiousness as a moderator and the effects of trait 
    change. J Res Pers. 2012;46(3):295-305. doi: 10.1016/j.
    39. Lim AG. Big Five Personality Traits. Simply Psychology; 2023. 
    Available from:
    40. Haase T, Pratschke J. Risk and Protection Factors for Substance 
    Abuse Among Young People. Stationery Office; 2010.
    41. Terracciano A, Löckenhoff CE, Crum RM, Bienvenu OJ, Costa 
    PT Jr. Five-factor model personality profiles of drug users. 
    BMC Psychiatry. 2008;8:22. doi: 10.1186/1471-244x-8-22.
    42. Osman T, Victor C, Abdulmoneim A, Mohammed H, Abdalla 
    F, Ahmed A, et al. Epidemiology of substance use among 
    university students in Sudan. J Addict. 2016;2016:2476164. 
    doi: 10.1155/2016/2476164.
    43. Kotov R, Gamez W, Schmidt F, Watson D. Linking “big” 
    personality traits to anxiety, depressive, and substance use 
    disorders: a meta-analysis. Psychol Bull. 2010;136(5):768-
    821. doi: 10.1037/a0020327.
    44. Onyencho VC, Ibrahim AW, Pindar SK, Makput D, Mshelia AA, Isa RB, et al. Personality traits of in-patients with substance 
    use disorders in a mental health facility in Nigeria. J Neurosci 
    Behav Health. 2016;8(1):1-8. doi: 10.5897/jnbh2015.0134.
    45. Trull TJ, Sher KJ. Relationship between the five-factor model 
    of personality and Axis I disorders in a nonclinical sample. 
    J Abnorm Psychol. 1994;103(2):350-60. doi: 10.1037//0021-
    46. American Psychiatric Association (APA). Diagnostic and 
    Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. APA; 2022. 
    doi: 10.1176/appi.books.9780890425787.
    47. American Public Health Association (APHA) Substance 
    Misuse. APHA; 2023. Available from:
    48. Diego S. What is the Difference Between Substance Abuse 
    and Substance Dependence? San Diego: Pacific Health 
    Systems; 2019. Available from: https://pacifichealthsystems.
    49. Roba HS, Gebremichael B, Adem HA, Beyene AS. 
    Current substances use among students in Ethiopia: a 
    systematic review and meta-analysis of 20-years evidence. 
    Subst Abuse. 2021;15:11782218211050352. doi: 
    50. Heslop K, Ross C, Osmond B, Wynaden D. The Alcohol 
    Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) 
    in an acute mental health setting. Int J Ment Health Addict. 
    2013;11(5):583-600. doi: 10.1007/s11469-013-9428-3.
    51. Tiburcio Sainz M, Rosete-Mohedano MG, Natera Rey 
    G, Martínez Vélez NA, Carreño García S, Pérez Cisneros 
    D. Validity and reliability of the Alcohol, Smoking, and 
    Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) in university 
    students. Adicciones. 2016;28(1):19-27. doi: 10.20882/
    52. Asmawati, Ikhlasia M, Panduragan SL. The effect of Spiritual 
    Emotional Freedom Technique (SEFT) therapy on the anxiety 
    of NAPZA (narcotics, psychotropic, and other addictive 
    substances) residents. Enferm Clin. 2020;30:206-8. doi: 
    53. Azkhosh M, Sahaf R, Rostami M, Ahmadi A. Reliability and 
    validity of the 10-item personality inventory among older 
    Iranians. Psychol Russ State Art. 2019;12(3):28-38. doi: 
    54. Rammstedt B, John OP. Measuring personality in one minute 
    or less: a 10-item short version of the big five inventory in 
    English and German. J Res Pers. 2007;41(1):203-12. doi: 
    55. Gosling SD, Rentfrow PJ, Swann WB. A very brief measure of 
    the big-five personality domains. J Res Pers. 2003;37(6):504-
    28. doi: 10.1016/s0092-6566(03)00046-1.
    56. Senanayake S, Gunawardena S, Kumbukage M, 
    Wickramasnghe C, Gunawardena N, Lokubalasooriya A, 
    et al. Smoking, alcohol consumption, and illegal substance 
    abuse among adolescents in Sri Lanka: results from Sri Lankan 
    global school-based health survey 2016. Advances in Public 
    Health. 2018;2018:9724176. doi: 10.1155/2018/9724176.
    57. Dash GF, Martin NG, Slutske WS. Big five personality traits 
    and illicit drug use: specificity in trait–drug associations. 
    Psychol Addict Behav. 2023;37(2):318-30. doi: 10.1037/
    58. Staiger PK, Kambouropoulos N, Dawe S. Should personality 
    traits be considered when refining substance misuse treatment 
    programs? Drug Alcohol Rev. 2007;26(1):17-23. doi: 
    59. Stolberg VB. Historical images and reviews of substance 
    use and substance abuse in the teaching of addiction 
    studies. J Teach Addict. 2009;8(1-2):65-83. doi: 
    60. Hokm Abadi ME, Bakhti M, Nazemi M, Sedighi S, Mirzadeh 
    Toroghi E. The relationship between personality traits and drug 
    type among substance abuse. Journal of Research and Health. 
    2018;8(6):531-40. doi: 10.29252/jrh.8.6.531. [Persian].
    61. Sihvola E, Rose RJ, Dick DM, Pulkkinen L, Marttunen M, 
    Kaprio J. Early-onset depressive disorders predict the use of 
    addictive substances in adolescence: a prospective study of 
    adolescent Finnish twins. Addiction. 2008;103(12):2045-53. 
    doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2008.02363.x.
    62. Tonin SL, Burrow-Sanchez JJ, Harrison RS, Kircher JC. 
    The influence of attitudes, acculturation, and gender 
    on substance use for Mexican American middle school 
    students. Addict Behav. 2008;33(7):949-54. doi: 10.1016/j.
    63. Wills TA, Vaccaro D, McNamara G, Hirky AE. Escalated 
    substance use: a longitudinal grouping analysis from early to 
    middle adolescence. J Abnorm Psychol. 1996;105(2):166-80. 
    doi: 10.1037//0021-843x.105.2.166.
    64. National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB). 
    Handbook of Drug Abuse Information in Sri Lanka 2022. 
    NDDCB; 2022.
    65. Blum RW. Adolescent Substance Use and Abuse. Arch 
    Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(8):805-8. doi: 10.1001/
    66. Khan I. Convention on psychotropic substances, 1971: the 
    role and responsibilities of the World Health Organization. 
    Prog Neuropsychopharmacol. 1979;3(1-3):11-4. doi: