The substance abuse proclivity scale: an improvement over the MacAndrew Alcoholism Scale?



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Texas Tech University


The abuse of alcohol and other drugs has become a major societal problem, Substance abuse among young people is a matter of particular concern. Abuse may be treated or even prevented if abusers and potential abusers can be identified before their problem causes damage to themselves and to society. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is commonly used to identify other forms of psychopathology, but it has proven ineffective in identifying alcoholic personalities. Several special scales have been developed to make this identification. The Mac Andrew Alcoholism Scale (MAC) is generally considered to be the most effective of these special scales. Research has raised questions about this scale's appropriateness in populations which differ from MacAndrew's original sample and its specificity to alcoholism or even to substance abuse in general. The identification problems encountered by researchers of the MAC have led Mac Andrew to postulate that the MAC is a measure not of substance abuse but of a risk-taking, reward-seeking orientation to life.

Mac Andrew created the Substance Abuse Proclivity (SAP) scale to provide a measure by which substance abuse or a potential to abuse could be identified in young people. His original study suggested that the SAP would be much more effective for this purpose than the MAC had proved to be. The present study followed the path of much of the MAC research: using the SAP to differentiate groups of male and female adolescent substance abusers hospitalized for treatment from similar general psychiatric inpatient samples. The performance of the SAP was compared with that of the MAC in the same population. The correlations of the two scales were computed, both in their standard form and with their overlapping items removed.

The scales were found to be highly correlated in both forms. Substance abusers scored higher on both scales than did nonabusers. Males scored somewhat higher than females, but the differences were not significant. The SAP did not show a notable increment in discriminative power over the MAC, both scales identifying approximately two-thirds of the sample. It was concluded that the SAP is not an improvement over the MAC, and that in the present population neither scale provides adequate discriminative power for clinical utility.