Neuropsychological Consequences of Opiate Use

Abstract

Approximately 3.7 million individuals have used heroin and other opiate substances in their lifetime. Despite increasing knowledge of the effects of heroin, it remains the most abused opiate and use among adults has recently increased. The empirical literature examining the neurocognitive effects of acute and chronic opioid use remains limited; however, findings to date suggest that the use of opiates has both acute and long-term effects on cognitive performance. Neuropsychological data indicate deficits in attention, concentration, recall, visuospatial skills and psychomotor speed with both acute and chronic opioid use. The long-term effects of opiate use appear to have the greatest impact on executive functions, including the ability to shift cognitive set and inhibit inappropriate response tendencies. Factors that contribute to addiction and recovery are also discussed, as it is difficult to disentangle the effects of opiate use on cognitive performance from other factors that may affect neurobehavioral measures.

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Acknowledgments

This work was funded by NIH grants DA12483 (DYT), DA 021422 (DYT, SAG, MMS) and AA014651 (MMS). The authors wish to thank Ms. Alexandria McCaffrey for her valuable assistance in preparing this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Deborah A. Yurgelun-Todd.

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Gruber, S.A., Silveri, M.M. & Yurgelun-Todd, D.A. Neuropsychological Consequences of Opiate Use. Neuropsychol Rev 17, 299–315 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11065-007-9041-y

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Keywords

  • Opiates
  • Neuropsychology
  • Heroin