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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008 Apr 1;94(1-3):82-91. Epub 2007 Dec 11.

Neuropsychological predictors of clinical outcome in opiate addiction.

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Department of Mental Health Sciences, University of London, London NW3 2PF, UK.


A growing literature supports a role for neurocognitive deficits such as impaired decision-making in the development and maintenance of addictive behaviour. On the basis of these findings, it has been suggested that measures of neurocognitive functioning may be applied to the task of predicting clinical outcome in drug addiction. This in turn may have relevance for differentiating treatment based on individual patient needs. To explore this hypothesis we obtained neurocognitive measures of planning, impulsivity and decision-making from 37 opiate dependent individuals within 6 weeks of starting a community drug treatment programme and we followed them up 3 months into the programme. Performance on two tests of decision-making, but not on tests of planning, motor inhibition, reflection impulsivity or delay discounting, was found to predict abstinence from illicit drugs at 3 months with high specificity and moderate sensitivity. In particular, two thirds of the participants performing normally on the Cambridge Gamble Task and the Iowa Gambling Task, but none of those impaired on both, were abstinent from illicit drugs at follow up. Other neuropsychological, psychiatric or psychosocial factors measured in this sample did not explain this finding. The results are discussed in terms of the brain circuitry involved and the potential implications for the planning of treatment services for opiate dependence.

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