Psychomotor function in chronic daily Cannabis smokers during sustained abstinence

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53127. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053127. Epub 2013 Jan 2.


Background: The present study assessed psychomotor function in chronic, daily cannabis smokers during 3 weeks continuously monitored abstinence on a secure research unit. We hypothesized that psychomotor performance would improve during abstinence of chronic, daily cannabis smokers.

Methodology/principal findings: Performance on the critical tracking (CTT) and divided attention (DAT) tasks was assessed in 19 male chronic, daily cannabis smokers at baseline and after 8, 14-16 and 21-23 days of continuously monitored abstinence. Psychomotor performance was compared to a control group of non-intoxicated occasional drug users. Critical frequency (λ(c)) of the CTT and tracking error and control losses of the DAT were the primary outcome measures. Results showed that chronic cannabis smokers' performance on the CTT (p<0.001) and the DAT (p<0.001) was impaired during baseline relative to the comparison group. Psychomotor performance in the chronic cannabis smokers improved over 3 weeks of abstinence, but did not recover to equivalent control group performance.

Conclusions/significance: Sustained cannabis abstinence moderately improved critical tracking and divided attention performance in chronic, daily cannabis smokers, but impairment was still observable compared to controls after 3 weeks of abstinence. Between group differences, however, need to be interpreted with caution as chronic smokers and controls were not matched for education, social economic status, life style and race.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / drug effects*
  • Cannabis
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognition
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / physiopathology*
  • Marijuana Smoking
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Dronabinol