Earlier studies indicated a relation between fearful-avoidant attachment and substance abuse. This study compares attachment representations (Family Attachment Interview; Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991) of three groups of substance abusers and non-clinical controls. Heroin abusers (N = 22) were mainly fearful-avoidant, ecstasy abusers (N = 31) were preoccupied, fearful-avoidant and dismissing-avoidant, cannabis abusers (N = 19) were mainly dismissing and secure, and controls (N = 22) were mainly secure. Groups did differ in their level of psychosocial functioning (GAF) (cannabis > ecstasy > opioids). Differences in attachment prevailed when GAF was controlled. Based on the self-medication hypothesis we understand the preferences for specific substances to be influenced by specific attachment strategies. Heroin seems to be used as an emotional substitute for lacking coping strategies. Cannabis seems to be used to support existing deactivating and distancing strategies. Ecstasy abuse was related to insecure attachment but not to a specific attachment strategy.
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