The residual neuropsychological effects of cannabis: the current status of research

Drug Alcohol Depend. 1995 Apr;38(1):25-34. doi: 10.1016/0376-8716(95)01097-i.


Evidence for the residual neuropsychological effects of cannabis must first be separated from evidence regarding (i) the acute effects of the drug, (ii) attributes of heavy cannabis users, and (iii) actual psychiatric disorders caused or exacerbated by cannabis. The remaining evidence must then be subdivided into (a) data supporting a 'drug residue' effect during the 12-24 h period immediately after acute intoxication and (b) data suggesting a more lasting toxic effect on the central nervous system which persists even after all drug residue has left the system. We reviewed the literature, comparing both 'drug-administration' studies in which known amounts of cannabis were administered to volunteers, and 'naturalistic studies' in which heavy marijuana users were tested after some period of abstinence. The data support a 'drug residue' effect on attention, psychomotor tasks, and short-term memory during the 12-24 h period immediately after cannabis use, but evidence is as yet insufficient to support or refute either a more prolonged 'drug residue' effect, or a toxic effect on the central nervous system that persists even after drug residues have left the body. We describe possible study designs to address these latter questions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / drug effects
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / chemically induced*
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / psychology
  • Cannabinoids / administration & dosage
  • Cannabinoids / adverse effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Abuse / complications*
  • Marijuana Abuse / psychology
  • Marijuana Smoking / adverse effects
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology


  • Cannabinoids