Background: Cognitive deficits are observed both in heroin dependence and in pathological gambling (PG) on various tasks. PG, as a non-substance addiction, is free of toxic consequences of drug use. Therefore a direct neurocognitive comparison of heroin addicts and pathological gamblers helps dissociate the consequences of chronic heroin use on cognitive function from the cognitive vulnerabilities that predispose addiction.
Methods: A case-control design was used, comparing 58 abstinent heroin addicts, 58 pathological gamblers, and 60 healthy controls on working memory and affective decision-making functions. Working memory was assessed using the Self-ordered Pointing Test (SOPT). Affective decision-making was measured by the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT).
Results: Heroin addicts performed significantly worse both on the IGT and on the SOPT, compared to healthy controls. Pathological gamblers performed worse on the IGT than healthy controls, but did not differ from controls on the SOPT. Years of heroin use were negatively correlated with working memory and affective decision-making performance in heroin addicts, while severity of gambling was not significantly correlated with any task performance in pathological gamblers.
Conclusions: Our findings indicate that deficits in affective decision-making shared by heroin dependence and PG putatively represent vulnerabilities to addiction and that working memory deficits detected only in heroin addicts may be identified as heroin-specific harmful effects.
Keywords: Affective decision-making; Heroin dependence; Pathological gambling; Working memory.
Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.