Associations between psychoactive substance use and sensation seeking behavior among drivers in Norway

Ragnhild E G Jamt*, Hallvard Gjerde, Håvard Furuhaugen, Giovanni Romeo, Vigdis Vindenes, Jan G. Ramaekers, Stig T Bogstrand

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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BACKGROUND/AIM: Drug use and risky driving is associated with sensation seeking. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between use of psychoactive substances and levels of the sensation seeking personality trait as measured with the Brief Sensation Seeking Scale 4 among drivers in Norway.

METHOD: A cross-sectional design was applied to estimate the association between psychoactive substance use and sensation seeking behavior. Drivers in normal traffic were included in two roadside surveys: one in the north (September 2014 - October 2015) and the other in the south-east of Norway (April 2016 - April 2017). Oral fluid was analyzed for alcohol and psychoactive drugs, and data on sex, age and time of participation were recorded. Participants filled in the Brief Sensation Seeking Scale 4 questionnaire.

RESULTS: A total of 8053 drivers were included, of which 32% were women and 62% were under 40 years. The prevalence of alcohol was 0.3%, stimulants 0.6%, tetrahydrocannabinol 1.4%, benzodiazepines and/or z-hypnotics 2.0% and polydrug use 0.6%. Associations were found between the use of tetrahydrocannabinol or benzodiazepines and/or z-hypnotics and a low score on the "thrill and adventure seeking" domain of the Brief Sensation Seeking Scale 4 (OR = 1.723, 95% C.I. = 1.001-2.966). Associations were also found between the use of stimulants and the highest scores on the "experience seeking" (OR = 2.085, 95% C.I. = 1.084-4.009) and "disinhibition" (OR = 4.791, 95% C.I. =1.748-13.135) domains of the Brief Sensation Seeking Scale 4. No associations were found between sensation seeking behavior and alcohol or polydrug use.

CONCLUSION: A high degree of sensation seeking was found among drivers who had used stimulating drugs, in contrast to drives who had used tetrahydrocannabinol and benzodiazepines and/or z-hypnotics who showed a low degree of sensation seeking. The combination of sensation seeking behavior and the use of stimulants might lead to increased risky behavior and thus traffic crashes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number23
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2020


  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Sensation seeking
  • Psychoactive substances
  • Accidents

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