Failure to sustain prepulse inhibition in adolescent marijuana users

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2011 Jul 1;116(1-3):110-6. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.11.020. Epub 2010 Dec 31.


Background: Marijuana use is typically initiated during adolescence, which is a critical period for neural development. Studies have reported reductions in prepulse inhibition (PPI) among adults who use marijuana chronically, although no human studies have been conducted during the critical adolescent period.

Methods: This study tested PPI of acoustic startle among adolescents who were either frequent marijuana users or naïve to the drug (Controls). Adolescents were tested using two intensities of prepulses (70 and 85 dB) combined with a 105 dB startle stimulus, delivered across two testing blocks.

Results: There was a significant interaction of group by block for PPI; marijuana users experienced a greater decline in the PPI across the testing session than Controls. The change in PPI of response magnitude for users was predicted by change in urine THC/creatinine after at least 18 h of abstinence, the number of joints used during the previous week before testing, as well as self-reported DSM-IV symptoms of marijuana tolerance, and time spent using marijuana rather than participating in other activities.

Conclusions: These outcomes suggest that adolescents who are frequent marijuana users have problems maintaining prepulse inhibition, possibly due to lower quality of information processing or sustained attention, both of may contribute to continued marijuana use as well as attrition from marijuana treatment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation*
  • Adolescent
  • Attention / drug effects*
  • Attention / physiology
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology
  • Marijuana Abuse / metabolism*
  • Marijuana Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Marijuana Smoking / metabolism
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reflex, Startle / drug effects*
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology