Impulsivity, attention, memory, and decision-making among adolescent marijuana users

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013 Mar;226(2):307-19. doi: 10.1007/s00213-012-2908-5. Epub 2012 Nov 9.


Rationale: Marijuana is a popular drug of abuse among adolescents, and they may be uniquely vulnerable to resulting cognitive and behavioral impairments. Previous studies have found impairments among adolescent marijuana users. However, the majority of this research has examined measures individually rather than multiple domains in a single cohesive analysis. This study used a logistic regression model that combines performance on a range of tasks to identify which measures were most altered among adolescent marijuana users.

Objectives: The purpose of this research was to determine unique associations between adolescent marijuana use and performances on multiple cognitive and behavioral domains (attention, memory, decision-making, and impulsivity) in 14- to 17-year-olds while simultaneously controlling for performances across the measures to determine which measures most strongly distinguish marijuana users from nonusers.

Methods: Marijuana-using adolescents (n = 45) and controls (n = 48) were tested. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to test for: (1) differences between marijuana users and nonusers on each measure, (2) associations between marijuana use and each measure after controlling for the other measures, and (3) the degree to which (1) and (2) together elucidated differences among marijuana users and nonusers.

Results: Of all the cognitive and behavioral domains tested, impaired short-term recall memory and consequence sensitivity impulsivity were associated with marijuana use after controlling for performances across all measures.

Conclusions: This study extends previous findings by identifying cognitive and behavioral impairments most strongly associated with adolescent marijuana users. These specific deficits are potential targets of intervention for this at-risk population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / drug therapy
  • Attention / drug effects*
  • Behavior / drug effects
  • Cannabis / adverse effects*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Decision Making / drug effects*
  • Drug-Seeking Behavior / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology