Intolerance of uncertainty in opioid dependency – Relationship with trait anxiety and impulsivity

Julia Garami, Paul Haber, Catherine E. Myers, Michael T. Allen, Blazej Misiak, Dorota Frydecka, Ahmed A. Moustafa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


Intolerance of uncertainty (IU) is the tendency to interpret ambiguous situations as threatening and having negative consequences, resulting in feelings of distress and anxiety. IU has been linked to a number of anxiety disorders, and anxiety felt in the face of uncertainty may result in maladaptive behaviors such as impulsive decision making. Although there is strong evidence that anxiety and impulsivity are risk factors for addiction, there is a paucity of research examining the role of IU in this disorder. The rate of opioid addiction, in particular, has been rising steadily in recent years, which necessitates deeper understanding of risk factors in order to develop effective prevention and treatment methods. The current study tested for the first time whether opioid-dependent adults are less tolerant of uncertainty compared to a healthy comparison group. Opioid dependent patients undergoing methadone maintenance therapy (n = 114) and healthy comparisons (n = 69) completed the following scales: Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale, the Barrett Impulsivity Scale, and the State Trait Anxiety Inventory. Analysis revealed that these measures were positively correlated with each other and that opioid-dependent patients had significantly higher IU scores. Regression analysis revealed that anxiety mediated the relationship between IU and impulsivity. Hierarchical moderation regression found an interaction between addiction status and impulsivity on IU scores in that the relationship between these variables was only observed in the patient group. Findings suggest that IU is a feature of addiction but does not necessarily play a unique role. Further research is needed to explore the complex relationship between traits and how they may contribute to the development and maintenance of addiction.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0181955
JournalPLoS One
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


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