The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and lateral prefrontal (LPFC) cortex are brain regions important to executive cognitive functions (ECF). We determined ACC and LPFC function in 23-day abstinent cocaine abusers using positron emission tomography (PET H(2)(15)O) during performance of a modified version of the Stroop Task. Cocaine abusers showed less activation than non-drug-using comparison subjects in the left ACC and the right LPFC and greater activation in the right ACC. Average amount of cocaine used per week was negatively correlated with activity in the rostral ACC and right LPFC. Disruption of ECF in substance abusers could interfere with attempts to stop drug use and undermine treatment. Since impairment in ECF may be a common feature of various neuropsychiatric disorders, these findings have applicability beyond the neurobiology of addiction.