Gender Differences on the Relationship among Resting Heart Rate Variability, Self-Reported Drug Abuse, and Difficulties in Emotion Regulation
Early drug use might to lead to drug addiction; the earlier individuals begin to engage in risky drug use, the more likely they are to engage in later drug abuse. Therefore, early intervention is warranted. This study explored individual differences in drug use tendencies in young and healthy adults. Specifically, I examined how self-reported emotion regulation (ER) difficulties and inhibition abilities, as indexed by resting heart rate variability (HRV), might predict risky drug use tendencies in young adults. I further considered these associations stratified by women and men. Novel results showed self-reported (or perceptions of) difficulties in ER were associated with higher drug usage in the full sample and this association was significantly stronger in women than men. Among the six different facets of ER difficulties, only those related to impulse control difficulties and limited access to ER strategies were most related to risky drug usage in women but not men. The other four facets of ER difficulties were not significantly different between men and women. An indirect association was found between resting HRV and drug use, mediated by self-reported difficulties in ER, particularly in women. Overall, results indicate that lower HRV and difficulties in ER indirectly and directly, respectively, predict risky drug use in women. These data are in line with research suggesting women might engage in risky drug use primarily for stress regulation while men might engage in risky drug activity irrespective of both resting HRV and difficulties in ER. Clinical implications are discussed.