The sensation seeking trait and substance use: Research findings and clinical implications

Michael T. Bardo, Yolanda Williams, Linda P. Dwoskin, S. E. Moynahan, I. B. Perry, Catherine A. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Sensation seeking (SS) is a personality trait defined by a need to seek novel sensations and experiences, accompanied by a willingness to take risks for the sake of such experiences. Various measures of SS have been developed and validated, including a scale specifically for children. Among different populations, SS has been associated with the expression of various health-related risk behaviors, most notably substance use and abuse. Evidence from basic research with laboratory animals and from human clinical studies indicates that high sensation seekers may have an overactive meso cortico limbic dopamine system relative to low sensation seekers. While the precise molecular mechanisms underlying SS remain to be elucidated, evidence suggests that low levels of monoamine oxidase activity, as well as altered dopamine receptor and dopamine transporter expression and function may play a role. Since altered monoamine function has been implicated in various psychiatric disorders, and since SS has been associated with some of these disorders, clinicians may find that SS offers a useful adjunct in promoting effective patient care and improving patient counseling. This may be especially useful in treating children, adolescents and young adults, as the risk for substance use and abuse is an especially relevant concern during this developmental period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-13
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Psychiatry Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • Amphetamine
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Dopamine D1 receptor (DRD1)
  • Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ)
  • Zuckerman-Kuhlman Personality Questionnaire (ZKPQ-

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'The sensation seeking trait and substance use: Research findings and clinical implications'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this