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J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2012 Jul;18(4):678-88. doi: 10.1017/S1355617712000276. Epub 2012 May 22.

Increased marijuana use and gender predict poorer cognitive functioning in adolescents and emerging adults.

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Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53211, USA.


This study sought to characterize neuropsychological functioning in MJ-using adolescents and emerging adults (ages 18-26) and to investigate whether gender moderated these effects. Data were collected from 59 teens and emerging adults including MJ users (n = 23, 56% female) and controls (n = 35, 50% female) aged 18-26 (M = 21 years). Exclusionary criteria included independent Axis I disorders (besides SUD), and medical and neurologic disorders. After controlling for reading ability, gender, subclinical depressive symptoms, body mass index, and alcohol and other drug use, increased MJ use was associated with slower psychomotor speed/sequencing ability (p < .01), less efficient sustained attention (p < .05), and increased cognitive inhibition errors (p < .03). Gender significantly moderated the effects of MJ on psychomotor speed/sequencing ability (p < .003) in that males had a more robust negative relationship. The current study demonstrated that MJ exposure was associated with poorer psychomotor speed, sustained attention and cognitive inhibition in a dose-dependent manner in young adults, findings that are consistent with other samples of adolescent MJ users. Male MJ users demonstrated greater cognitive slowing than females. Future studies need to examine the neural substrates underlying with these cognitive deficits and whether cognitive rehabilitation or exercise interventions may serve as a viable treatments of cognitive deficits in emerging adult MJ users.

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