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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2010 Nov;71(6):885-94.

Learning and memory performances in adolescent users of alcohol and marijuana: interactive effects.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California, USA.



Lifetime alcohol hangover and withdrawal symptoms in youth have been shown to predict poorer recall of verbal and nonverbal information, as well as reduced visuospatial skills. Some evidence has suggested that negative effects of alcohol on the brain may be buffered in part by potential neuroprotective properties of cannabinoids. We hypothesized that a history of more alcohol hangover symptoms would predict worse performances on measures of verbal and visual memory, and that this relationship would be moderated by marijuana involvement.


Participants were 130 adolescents (65 with histories of heavy marijuana use, and 65 non-marijuana-using controls), ranging in age from 15.7 to 19.1 years. Neuropsychological tests for visual and verbal memory and interviews assessing lifetime and recent substance use, hangover/withdrawal symptoms, and abuse and dependence criteria were administered.


Regression models revealed that greater alcohol hangover symptoms predicted worse verbal learning (p < .05) and memory (p < .05) (California Verbal Learning Test, Second Edition) scores for non-marijuana users, but alcohol hangover symptoms were not linked to performance among marijuana users. Alcohol hangover symptoms did not predict visual memory in either group.


Results confirm previous studies linking adolescent heavy drinking to reduced verbal learning and memory performance. However, this relationship is not seen in adolescents with similar levels of alcohol involvement who also are heavy users of marijuana.

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