A Longitudinal Examination of Addictive Consumption: Its Behavioral and Psychological Pattern and Consequences

ABSTRACT - Research on deviant or abnormal behavior has been rare in the field of consumer behavior. The present paper provides empirical data on deviant consumer behavior, focusing on the case of narcotics addiction. Retrospective self-report data on addiction histories were collected from over 300 male addicts. Three sets of analyses were conducted: (1) comparisons of various behaviors between the addiction and non-addiction periods, (2) time-series analysis of relationships between narcotics use and economic behavior, and (3) examinations of perceived health/emotion status and family relationships. Results clearly indicated negative effects of prolonged drug addiction on their behaviors and perceived physical and psychological status.


Keiko I. Powers (1993) ,"A Longitudinal Examination of Addictive Consumption: Its Behavioral and Psychological Pattern and Consequences", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, eds. Leigh McAlister and Michael L. Rothschild, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 405-412.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, 1993      Pages 405-412


Keiko I. Powers, University of California, Los Angeles


Research on deviant or abnormal behavior has been rare in the field of consumer behavior. The present paper provides empirical data on deviant consumer behavior, focusing on the case of narcotics addiction. Retrospective self-report data on addiction histories were collected from over 300 male addicts. Three sets of analyses were conducted: (1) comparisons of various behaviors between the addiction and non-addiction periods, (2) time-series analysis of relationships between narcotics use and economic behavior, and (3) examinations of perceived health/emotion status and family relationships. Results clearly indicated negative effects of prolonged drug addiction on their behaviors and perceived physical and psychological status.


Investigations of "abnormal" or "deviant" behavior have been quite rare in the consumer behavior field (Krych, 1989; Moschis, 1989). Although more researchers have started focusing on the issues recently, related topics have been limited to compulsive spending (Faber and O'Guinn, 1989; O'Guinn and Faber, 1989) or impulsive buying (Rook, 1987), credit card abuse (Faber and O'Guinn, 1988), shoplifting (Cox et al, 1990), and consumption patterns among homeless people (Hill and Stamey, 1990).

As Moschis and Cox (1989) stated, full understanding of consumer behavior requires examinations of the undesirable as well as desirable patterns and consequences of the behavior. Deviant consumer behavior can be more common than we might expect. For example, sudden unemployment due to layoffs could cause many people to adjust their consumption behaviors to a deviant pattern until they find a new job with comparable compensation. Need for long-term health care might be another case of deviant consumer behavior. A family member may need expensive health care to the point that the related cost destroys the balanced consumption pattern of the household.

Still, another example of deviant consumer behavior is the case of drug addiction. To many individuals in the United States today, addictive consumption of drugs is one of the most serious personal as well as social problems. It is often the case that consumer behavior of these drug dependent individuals is heavily affected by a physical and psychological need for the drug. The purpose of the present study is to illustrate how addictive consumption of drugs influences an individual's life patterns. More specifically, the paper examines effects of prolonged narcotics addiction on various behaviors (e.g., crime involvement, marital/family status, or employment) and psychological/health status. In conclusion, the paper discusses common features of the present findings compared to other literature on abnormal consumer behavior (i.e., compulsive spending or homeless people).



The sample consists of 354 male narcotics addicts selected from admissions to the California Civil Addict Program (CAP) in 1962-64. [The California Civil Addict Program (CAP), initiated in 1961 and administered by the California Department of Corrections, had two phases over a seven-year commitment period: incarceration and then parole, or monitored release into the community. The CAP program was the only compulsory program in California for the treatment and control of narcotic addiction, which provided nonpunitive legal treatment.] These subjects were interviewed twice in follow-up studies conducted in 1974/75 and 1985/86. A more detailed description of the sampling procedure can be found in Anglin and McGlothlin (1984). Background characteristics of the sample are presented in Table 1. The ethnic make-up is 28 blacks, 204 Chicano, and 122 whites. Most were from middle- or working-class families and had semiskilled or unskilled occupations. The majority were legally married at some time point of their life and had children. The mean ages at which narcotics use and legal system contact occurred indicate that the subjects were involved in criminal activities and started using narcotics in their late teens.

Interview Procedure

The interview procedure was adapted in part from one developed by Nurco and colleagues (Nurco, Bonito, Lerner, and Balter, 1975) and has been described in detail in an earlier paper (McGlothlin, Anglin, and Wilson, 1977). Briefly, a schematic time chart was prepared before the interview, showing all official records of arrests, intervals of incarceration, legal status, and treatment. The interviewer established the date of first narcotic use on the time chart, then augmented the time chart with respondents' self-report of other important life events (e.g., births, moves, or employment) suitable to assist in recall. Starting from the time of first narcotics use, the interviewer recorded all time points when narcotics use changed from less than daily use to daily use (or vice versa), or when the respondent's legal supervision or treatment status changed. These time points were used to divide the respondent's addiction history into several intervals, which were uniform in terms of narcotics use, legal status, and drug treatment enrollment. Self-reported data were then collected for each of these intervals on narcotics, alcohol, and other drug use; employment; drug dealing; criminal behavior; and certain other variables. In this way, the entire addiction history was recorded, from the time of first narcotics use to the time of interview. [The interview was conducted by trained professionals under the face-to-face setting to maximize the information accuracy. Hser, Anglin, and Chou (in press) examined the test-retest reliabilities of the data. The reliabilities of the variables used in the present study ranged from moderate to high (.43-.73).]

Variables and Planned Analyses

The present longitudinal data cover over 30 years of their addiction histories, including various behavioral (e.g., drug addiction, dealing, crime), social-function (e.g., marriage, employment), and intervention (e.g., legal supervision, treatment) time-series measures. In addition, several measures on self-perceptions of physical and psychological status are provided.

Three sets of analyses are based on these time-series and perception measures to explore the patterns and effects of addictive consumption: (1) comparisons of various behavioral involvements between the period of daily narcotics use and that of either non-daily-use or abstinence status, (2) time series analysis of economic behavior [According to van Raaij (1991), economic behavior is defined as "the behavior of consumers/citizens that involves economic decisions, and the determinants and consequences of economic decisions" (p. 383).], which examines the relationship between narcotics use and changes in monetary activities (i.e., employment, welfare, dealing, and property crime) over time, and (3) an examination of effects of narcotics use on self-perceptions of their physical, psychological, and family status.



These analyses were conducted for the pre-CAP (Civil Addict Program) and post-CAP periods separately to examine consistencies and differences between the two periods. [During years 1964 through 1969, the majority of the subjects were under the CAP in-house treatment and were "off street." Therefore, and assessment of their addiction-related behavioral patterns was irrelevant for this period. Furthermore, it was expected that their addiction life style was quite different between the pre-CAP and post-CAP periods. The present study compared the two periods whenever appropriate.] The second analysis was based on group-aggregate time-series measures. To obtain the aggregate time series, first, time series on activity involvement (e.g., daily narcotics use or employment) for each subject was provided separately, using bimonthly periods as time intervals. (To accommodate to the part-time factor, if the activity involvement was less than two months for any given interval, the value was weighed accordingly.) Next, for each of the bimonthly periods, the mean across all the subjects was calculated. The obtained values represent the percentage of subjects involved in the activity for a given bimonthly period. The same method was used for all the variables. These time series variables were used to develop two multivariate time-series models, one for the pre-CAP period and the other for the post-CAP period. [Time-series models based on these group-aggregate measures focus on group dynamics over time. The models do not allow us to discuss individual differences; however, these models are useful for understanding the relationships between narcotics use and various behaviours as the global social phenonmenon.]




Comparisons between Daily-Use and Non-Daily-Use Periods

Table 2 presents the means of various behavioral measures across the 354 subjects for the four periods, i.e., (1) the pre-CAP daily-use (i.e., using narcotics daily), (2) the pre-CAP non-daily-use (i.e., using less than daily or being abstinent), (3) the post-CAP daily-use and the (4) post-CAP non-daily-use periods. As a group, the mean number of months for the four periods was 34, 43, 51, and 122, respectively (see the top column in Table 2). These values excluded the time the subject was incarcerated. The mean activity values indicate the changes in behavioral involvements among the four periods. For example, the subjects were, on average, employed 46 percent of the pre-CAP daily-use period (i.e., approximately 26 months out of the 34-month period) but 61 percent of the pre-CAP non-daily-use period.

These values clearly indicate the effect of narcotics addiction on various behaviors. Compared to the non-addiction period, the addiction period shows more dealing, and more property crime, but less employment and welfare, and less marijuana use. The patterns are consistent between the pre- and post-CAP periods. Methadone treatment (i.e., medical treatment for narcotics addicts), marital status, and common-law relationship during the post-CAP period also show clear effects of narcotics use. Although most of the values are similar between the pre- and post-CAP periods, methadone treatment and welfare show a substantial increase during the post-CAP period compared to the pre-CAP period.

Relationships between Narcotics Use and Economic Behavior

In order to better understand how the addicts' dependency on different income sources changed over time and whether or not the pattern differed between the pre- and post-CAP periods, two time-series models for each period were developed for the four monetary measures in Table 2. Two narcotics use measures, daily use and no use (abstinence from narcotics), were also included to examine their relationships to these monetary measures. Figures 1 and 2 plot the six time-series variables for the pre-CAP and the post-CAP period, respectively.

Figure 1 illustrates changes of narcotics use and economic behavior between 1954 and 1964, before CAP admission, at the group-aggregate level. The period covers the average age of late teens to early twenties. The time-series plots clearly show a steady increase in the percentage of subjects using narcotics daily (Daily Use) over time and a corresponding decrease of abstinence status (No Use). Both Dealing and Crime are fairly stable over time; however, Employment displays a sharp decline right before CAP admission. Dependency on welfare is very low (almost zero on the plot) during the entire pre-CAP period.

Figure 2 covers years 1970 through 1986, the period after CAP discharge. The subjects are in their thirties and forties on the average during this period, and narcotics use and economic behavior seem to reflect the age factor. The time-series plots show a steady increase in abstinence status (No Use) and a progressive decrease of Daily Use. Employment and Welfare also show increasing trends over time. Although Dealing and Crime are stable over time, their overall levels are lower compared to the pre-CAP period.

Multivariate time-series models were developed on narcotics use and economic behavior, using a new time series technique called "cointegration and error-correction modeling" (Engle and Granger, 1987). The approach allows a differential assessment of long-term, short-term, and contemporaneous relationships. Briefly, long-term relationships depict how time-series stochastic trends relate to each other, whereas short-term relationships describe how temporary fluctuations from the trends of one variable are related to those of other variables. The former relationship focuses on "equilibrium," or closely tied relationships over time. On the other hand, the latter represents how the changes of one variable from one time period to the next are related to those of other variables. Contemporaneous relationships are similar to the regular correlational relationship, but with this approach, this last type of relationship is controlled for the long-term and short-term relationships (see Powers et al., 1991, for more detailed discussion).







Table 3 gives a summary of the multivariate time-series models for the pre- and post-CAP periods. [The parameter estimates of the time-series models can be obtained from the author upon request.] Each cell in Table 3 represents the relationship between the column and the row variables. An empty cell means there is no statistically significant relationship. The numbers "1" and "2" indicate the existence of a relationship for the pre-CAP and the post-CAP period, respectively. The symbol "+" after the number represents a positive association, and "-" represents a negative association.

Overall, the system dynamics are characterized by long-term and contemporaneous relationships for both pre- and post-CAP periods. Virtually, no short-term relationships are observed; the only significant short-term relationships are a negative association between No Use and the lagged Welfare (i.e., welfare status at the previous time period) for the pre-CAP period and a positive association between Daily Use and its own previous status for the post-CAP period. The following section further discusses the relationships found with the time series models, focusing on the relationships of narcotics use with legal (i.e., employment and welfare) and illegal (i.e., dealing and crime) economic behavior.

Narcotics Use and Legal Economic Behavior. A consistent pattern between the pre- and post-CAP periods is the positive association between Employment and No Use. The positive relationship implies that these addicts were more likely to behave as a more productive citizen, holding legitimate jobs, when they could maintain abstinence from narcotics. On the other hand, no clear relationship is observed between Welfare and the drug use variables; the only significant relationship is the negative short-term relationship between No Use and the previous Welfare status during the pre-CAP period. This negative relationship could be a reflection of their misuse of welfare income to support their narcotics habit, but further investigation is needed to cross-validate the relationship.

Narcotics Use and Illegal Economic Behavior. The close links between narcotics use behavior and crime/dealing are clearly seen in Table 3. For both pre- and post-CAP periods, the time-series models indicate the positive associations between Daily Use and Dealing and between Daily Use and Crime. The addicts tended to get involved in dealing and property crime more when they were using narcotics daily. Rather surprising is, however, the positive relationships of No Use with both Dealing and Crime for the pre-CAP period. The pattern seems to reflect the addicts' heavy criminal involvement during their young ages, even at the time when they were maintaining their abstinence status.

Legal and Illegal Economic Behavior. When relationships among the four income-generating behaviors are examined, a consistent pattern observed is the positive relationship between Dealing and Employment. For both pre- and post-CAP periods, as dealing increased, employment tended to increase, and visa versa. Other significant relationships are the negative long-term and positive contemporaneous relationships between Dealing and Crime, and the relationships involving welfare status (i.e., the positive relationship with Dealing for the pre-CAP period and the negative relationship with Employment for the post-CAP period).

The above relationships represent how these addicts allocated their efforts among different income-generating activities over time. Particularly interesting are the positive long-term association between Dealing and Employment and the negative long-term association between Dealing and Crime. Though further analyses would be needed to determine the causal direction of these relationships, the observed relationships suggest that these addicts tended to hold a legitimate job and deal drugs at the same time but tended not to commit property crime when dealing drugs. Some possible explanations are that the addicts acted businesslike, being engaged in multiple income-generating activities to financially support themselves. However, they might have considered the legal activity (i.e., employment) different from the illegal activities. As a result, when they are heavily involved in dealing, for example, they spent less time in committing property crime while they maintained their employment status.

Overall, the multivariate models provided data to support various relationships, such as the positive relationships between daily use and dealing/crime and the positive relationship between no use and employment. Some relationships, however, were unexpected, such as the positive associations between Employment and Crime and between Employment and Daily Use during the pre-CAP period. A possible explanation is that the relationships reflect these addicts' "out-of-control" status (i.e., heavy narcotics use and associated pattern of economic behavior) before the CAP admission.

Self-Perceptions of Physical/Psychological/Family Status

Table 4 summarizes the addicts' perception of family relationships during their past and that of their physical and psychological status at the second interview conducted in 1985/86. For the physical and psychological status, the total sample was divided into two groups, those who were using narcotics (Active) and those who were not (Inactive) at the time of interview, in order to examine if the drug-use status affected their self-perception.

The frequency distributions clearly illustrate negative consequences of narcotics addiction on all the measures. More subjects stated that they were happier and spent more time with family when not using narcotics during the past. Comparisons between the Active and Inactive groups indicated that the latter tended to feel more positive about their health and emotional status and tended to be happier at the time of interview. Furthermore, many expressed their concern about AIDS infection, especially the active addicts.

Two of these perception measures (the remaining measures were not available) were examined for the first interview to compare and contrast the perception changes. The first interview was conducted approximately 10 years prior to the second interview. While the same pattern was obtained for "opinion of life now," the measure "physical health now" indicated a much more positive viewpoint at the first interview. More than 30% of them reported "excellent," and approximately 15% reported "poor" or "fair." Furthermore, the narcotics use status at the time of interview did not show any effect on their perception of physical health. The results imply the negative long-term impacts of narcotics use on the perception of their physical condition.


Behavioral/Psychological Pattern of Narcotics Addiction

The purpose of the present study has been to illustrate the longitudinal pattern of consumer behavior affected by narcotics addiction and the consequences of such a consumption pattern on physical and psychological status. The majority of the sample was those who had been heavily involved in criminal activities with numerous arrest records. Despite their criminal activities, however, most of them held employment, particularly when they were not using narcotics daily. Over 80% of these subjects married at least once, and about the same proportion of them had fathered children.

Effects of narcotics abuse on various parts of their lives were evident in all the data provided in the present study. For both the pre-CAP (approximately 10 years) and the post-CAP (about 16.5 years) periods, daily narcotics use was associated with more illegal activities and with less socially desirable activities. Time series analysis was conducted to examine the longitudinal pattern of economic behavior and narcotics use. The models demonstrated the effects of narcotics use on their monetary activities. Particularly important were the positive relationship of daily narcotics use with dealing and property crime and the positive relationship of abstinence from narcotics with employment status. The relationships illustrated the consistent and persistent pattern of how these individuals allocated their time for earning money, which was mainly used to support their narcotics use habit. The pattern seems to highlight these addicts' "locked-in" status where their economic behavior was virtually dictated by their needs for narcotics consumption.

Finally, effects of drug involvement were observed on perceptions of family relationships, life fulfillment, health concern, and psychological status. In particular, comparisons between the Inactive and Active subjects indicated negative views by more individuals of the Active group on most of the measures. The negative long-term effect of narcotics use on perception of physical condition was supported by the observed difference between the first and the second interview.

Narcotics Addiction and Deviant Consumer Behavior

Krych (1989) listed problems associated with addictive behavior: family problems, monetary problems, health and emotional problems, and legal, job, and social problems. The present study illustrated that addictive drug consumption is closely tied to all these problems. Anglin and Powers (in press) found that though medical treatments and legal interventions are effective in controlling illegal activities and promoting more socially desirable behaviors among drug-dependent individuals, these individuals are not receiving sufficient interventions. Direct and indirect social costs due to drug addiction are astonishingly high (estimated over $60 billion in 1985 (Rice et al., 1990)). The intensity of this serious social problem suggests the importance of a better understanding of drug addiction to provide more effective social interventions.



In the consumer behavior context, future research efforts that compare and contrast or integrate various forms of deviant behavior may be fruitful. For example, behavioral/psychological patterns associated with drug addiction share several common features with other forms of deviant behavior. Hill and Stamey (1990) reported that homeless people become totally focused on obtaining food and shelter. Likewise, lives of narcotics addicts are centered upon consumption of drugs. These two cases share the common feature that the consumer pattern is affected by some uncontrollable (or out-of-control) external factor. Furthermore, the strong urge to use drugs, or its psychological status, resembles the drive to buy, which is observed in compulsive buying (O'Guinn and Faber, 1989). Both homelessness and compulsive buying are very likely associated with family or monetary problems, as with the case of drug addiction. The possibility of subsequent health/emotional or other related problems (e.g. job loss) are also not negligible for all these cases. The comparisons clearly indicate the underlying commonalties among these different forms of deviant consumer behavior.

The existence of the commonalties suggest that these various forms of obsessive-compulsive problems can possibly be studied by applying the same underlying theories and principles. In fact, Mule (1981) emphasized the importance of understanding commonalties among various excessive behaviors for better treatment or prevention. Furthermore, from the perspective of consumer behavior, research efforts on these related topics are a valuable step toward the notion of "the intersection of consumer behavior and social policy" advocated by Andreasen (1991). Exploring how "normal" consumption goes wrong can help us better understand both normal and abnormal consumer behavior (O'Guinn and Faber, 1989). These factors underscore the worth of integrating various forms of deviant problems. The idea of abnormal or deviant consumer behavior is still new. More research efforts are called for which further explore this important topic.


Andreasen, Alan R. (1991), "Consumer Behavior Research and Social Policy," in Thomas S. Robertson and Harold H. Kassarjian (Eds.), Handbook of Consumer Behavior, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Anglin, M. Douglas, and William H. McGlothlin (1984), "Outcome of Narcotic Addict Treatment in California," in F. Tims and J. Ludford (Eds.), Drug Abuse Treatment Evaluation: Strategies, Progress, and Prospects, NIDA Research Monograph 51, DHHS Publication No. (ADM) 84-1349. Rockville, MD: NIDA.

Anglin, M. Douglas, and Keiko I. Powers (in press), "Methadone Treatment and Legal Supervision: Individual and Joint Effects on the Behavior of Narcotics Addicts," Journal of Applied Behavior Science.

Cox, Dena, Anthony D. Cox, and George P. Moschis (1990), "When Consumer Behavior Goes Bad: An Investigation of Adolescent Shoplifting," Journal of Consumer Research, 17, 149-159.

Engle, Robert F. and Clive W.J. Granger (1987), "Co-Integration and Error Correction: Representation, Estimation, and Testing," Econometrica, 55, 251-276.

Faber, Ronald J., and Thoman C. O'Guinn (1988), "Compulsive Consumption and Credit Abuse," Journal of Consumer Policy, 11, 109-121.

Faber, Ronald J., and Thoman C. O'Guinn (1989), "Classifying Compulsive Consumers: Advances in the Development of a Diagnostic Tool" in Thomas K. Srull (Ed.), Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 16, 738-744.

Hill, Ronald P., and Mark Stamey (1990), "The Homeless in America: An Examination of Possessions and Consumption Behaviors," Journal of Consumer Research, 17, 303-321.

Hser, Yih-Ing, M. Douglas Anglin, and Chih-Ping Chou (in press), "Reliability of Retrospective Self-Report by Narcotics Addicts," Psychological Assessment: Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Krych, Raymond (1989), "Abnormal Consumer Behavior: A Model of Addictive Behaviors," in Thomas K. Srull (Ed.), Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. XVI, 745-748.

McGlothlin, William H., M. Douglas Anglin, and Bruce D. Wilson (1977), "A Follow-Up of Admissions to the California Civil Addict Program," American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 4, 179-199.

Moschis, George P., and Dena Cox (1989), "Deviant Consumer Behavior," in Thomas K. Srull (Ed.), Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. XVI, 732-737.

Mule, S. Joseph (1981), Behavior in Excess: An Examination of the Volitional Disorders, New York: the Free Press.

Nurco, D.N., and A.J. Bonito, M. Lerner, and M.B. Balter (1975), "Studying Addicts over Time: Methodology and Preliminary Findings," American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 2, 183-196.

O'Guinn Thoman C., and Ronald J. Faber (1989), "Compulsive Buying: A Phenomenological Exploration," Journal of Consumer Research, 16, 147-157.

Powers, Keiko I., Dominique M. Hanssens, Yih-Ing Hser, and M. Douglas Anglin (1991), "Measuring the Long-Term Effects of Public Policy: The Case of Narcotics Use and Property Crime," Management Science, 37, 627-644.

van Raaij, W. Fred (1991), "Economic Psychology," in Harold H. Kassarjian and Thomas S. Robertson (Eds.), Perspectives in Consumer Behavior, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Rice, Dorothy P., S. Kelman, L. Miller, and S. Dunmeyer, (1990), The Economic Costs of Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Illness C 1985, Institute for Health and Aging, University of California, San Francisco.

Rook, Dennis W. (1987), "The Buying Impluse," Journal of Consumer Research, 14, 189-199.



Keiko I. Powers, University of California, Los Angeles


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20 | 1993

Share Proceeding

Featured papers

See More


When Novices have more Influence than Experts: Empirical Evidence from Online Peer Reviews

Peter Nguyen, Ivey Business School
Xin (Shane) Wang, Western University, Canada
Xi Li, City University of Hong Kong
June Cotte, Ivey Business School

Read More


Consumers' response to branded longevity

Anthony Moussa, Paris School of Business

Read More


E4. Doing Good for Nothing: Motive Inferences from the Probabilistic Profits of Prosociality

Ike Silver, University of Pennsylvania, USA
Jackie Silverman, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Read More

Engage with Us

Becoming an Association for Consumer Research member is simple. Membership in ACR is relatively inexpensive, but brings significant benefits to its members.