Empirical evidence of a relationship between emotional intelligence (EI) and psychoactive substances is as yet scarce and contradictory. The present study investigates the relationship between EI and the consumption of an illegal and potentially addictive substance such as heroin. The starting hypothesis is that low EI is associated with heroin consumption, but also investigated are the relationships between EI and the constructs typically considered in traditional research on substance consumption, in particular health locus of control, coping styles and the emotions associated to heroin, controlling also the effect of gender. Based on previous evidence, we hypothesized that EI would show significant relationships with adaptive behaviors. A group of participants being treated for their heroin addiction (44, 14 F) was compared with a control group (48, 22 F) matched for socio-demographic characteristics. Global measure of EI was obtained with the Italian version of Shutte and colleagues instrument. Results highlighted the presence of positive correlation of EI with an adaptive coping style such as direct confrontation, and negative correlation with avoidance only among the consumers. Correlation was found also with low arousal emotions, positive among the consumers
and negative among controls, thus partially confirming our hypothesis. However, no relationships emerged between EI and heroin consumption. The EI seems more connected with behaviors of environment exploration and affective regulation strategies, while it does not seem directly connected with substance use.
Keywords: Emotional intelligence, coping styles, substance use, addiction.