Methamphetamine (meth) abuse is increasingly of public health concern and has been associated with neurocognitive dysfunction. Some previous studies have been hampered by background differences between meth users and comparison subjects, as well as unknown HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) status, which can also affect brain functioning. We compared the neurocognitive functioning of 54 meth dependent (METH+) study participants who had been abstinent for an average of 129 days, to that of 46 demographically comparable control subjects (METH-) with similar level of education and reading ability. All participants were free of HIV and HCV infection. The METH+ group exhibited higher rates of neuropsychological impairment in most areas tested. Among meth users, neuropsychologically normal (n=32) and impaired (n=22) subjects did not differ with respect to self-reported age at first use, total years of use, route of consumption, or length of abstinence. Those with motor impairment had significantly greater meth use in the past year, but impairment in cognitive domains was unrelated to meth exposure. The apparent lack of correspondence between substance use parameters and cognitive impairment suggests the need for further study of individual differences in vulnerability to the neurotoxic effects of methamphetamine.
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