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Association between hyperactivity and executive cognitive functioning in childhood and substance use in early adolescence.

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  • 1Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment and Research Center, Bakirkoy Mental Hospital, Istanbul, Turkey.



To determine whether deficient executive cognitive functioning (ECF) in association with high behavioral activity level comprise components of the liability to substance abuse.


A high-risk (HR) group having fathers with a lifetime DSM-III-R diagnosis of a psychoactive substance use disorder was compared with a low-average-risk (LAR) group whose fathers had neither psychoactive substance use disorder nor another adult Axis I psychiatric disorder. ECF and behavioral activity were measured using neuropsychological tests, activity monitor, diagnostic interview, and informant ratings when the subjects were 10 to 12 years of age. Alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis use were measured at 2-year follow-up.


At baseline, the HR group had a significantly higher behavioral activity level and exhibited poorer performance on ECF tests than the LAR group. By early adolescence, HR subjects had a higher lifetime rate of tobacco and cannabis use and earlier age at onset of cannabis use. ECF capacity, but not behavioral activity level, predicted tobacco and cannabis use, total number of drugs ever tried, and severity of drug involvement. ECF accounted for additional variance beyond the effects of conduct problems on these outcomes.


Whereas behavioral activity and ECF capacity in late childhood distinguishes HR from LAR youth, childhood ECF capacity is the more salient predictor of drug use in early adolescence.

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