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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012 Feb 1;121(1-2):159-62. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.08.015. Epub 2011 Sep 14.

Neuropsychological deficits associated with cannabis use in young adults.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota School of Medicine, 2450 Riverside Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55454, United States.



Cannabis is the most widely used illicit substance and has been associated with cognitive impairment. It is unclear whether such impairment can occur in the absence of potential confounding influences of co-morbid axis-I disorders and use of other illicit substances.


Young adult volunteers (18-29 years) were recruited from the general community on the basis of having no axis-I disorders or history of illicit substance use other than cannabis use. Subjects were then grouped according to presence or absence of cannabis use (>1 time/week over past 12 months). Cognition was compared between groups using selected paradigms from the CANTAB.


Cannabis users (N=16) and controls (N=214) did not differ significantly on salient demographic characteristics. Compared to controls, cannabis users showed significant impairments on quality of decision-making (Cambridge Gamble task), and executive planning (One Touch Stockings of Cambridge task). Response inhibition, spatial working memory, and sustained attention were intact.


This study identified cognitive deficits in cannabis users even in the absence of axis-I disorders and a history of using other illicit drugs. Future work should use longitudinal designs to track whether these deficits predate cannabis use or are due to its consumption.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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