Impulsivity, attention, memory, and decision-making among adolescent marijuana users

Abstract

Rationale

Marijuana is a popular drug of abuse among adolescents, and they may be uniquely vulnerable to resulting cognitive and behavioral impairments. Previous studies have found impairments among adolescent marijuana users. However, the majority of this research has examined measures individually rather than multiple domains in a single cohesive analysis. This study used a logistic regression model that combines performance on a range of tasks to identify which measures were most altered among adolescent marijuana users.

Objectives

The purpose of this research was to determine unique associations between adolescent marijuana use and performances on multiple cognitive and behavioral domains (attention, memory, decision-making, and impulsivity) in 14- to 17-year-olds while simultaneously controlling for performances across the measures to determine which measures most strongly distinguish marijuana users from nonusers.

Methods

Marijuana-using adolescents (n = 45) and controls (n = 48) were tested. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to test for: (1) differences between marijuana users and nonusers on each measure, (2) associations between marijuana use and each measure after controlling for the other measures, and (3) the degree to which (1) and (2) together elucidated differences among marijuana users and nonusers.

Results

Of all the cognitive and behavioral domains tested, impaired short-term recall memory and consequence sensitivity impulsivity were associated with marijuana use after controlling for performances across all measures.

Conclusions

This study extends previous findings by identifying cognitive and behavioral impairments most strongly associated with adolescent marijuana users. These specific deficits are potential targets of intervention for this at-risk population.

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Acknowledgments

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Christy Duncan, P.A. in collection of data from which this manuscript was prepared. Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) grant R21-DA020993 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Additionally, Dr. Dougherty acknowledges support from the William and Marguerite Wurzbach Distinguished Professorship and The University of Texas Regent’s Scholar Award.

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Correspondence to Donald M. Dougherty.

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Funding for this project provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R21-DA020993)

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Dougherty, D.M., Mathias, C.W., Dawes, M.A. et al. Impulsivity, attention, memory, and decision-making among adolescent marijuana users. Psychopharmacology 226, 307–319 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-012-2908-5

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Keywords

  • Marijuana
  • Cannabis
  • Adolescence
  • Impulsivity
  • Memory
  • Attention