Neuropsychological consequences of opiate use

Neuropsychol Rev. 2007 Sep;17(3):299-315. doi: 10.1007/s11065-007-9041-y. Epub 2007 Aug 10.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology
  • Cognition Disorders / drug therapy
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / pathology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / physiopathology*


  • Narcotics