What are the specific vs. generalized effects of drugs of abuse on neuropsychological performance?

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Publication Details

Author list: Fernández-Serrano, M. J., Pérez-García, M., Verdejo-García, A.
Publisher: Elsevier
Publication year: 2011
Volume number: 35
Issue number: 3
Start page: 377
End page: 406
Number of pages: 30
ISSN: 0149-7634
Languages: English-Great Britain (EN-GB)


Most substance abusers simultaneously use
and abuse more than one substance, even when there is a clear drug of
choice. This pattern creates a great challenge in relating
neuropsychological findings in drug users to a certain drug. This review
aims to: (i) discuss results from neuropsychological studies using
different research methodologies that may improve our understanding of
specific vs. generalized effects of different drugs on
neuropsychological performance; and (ii) determine which
neuropsychological mechanisms are impaired in the same way by the use of
different drugs, and which impairments are specific to certain
substances, including cannabis, psychostimulants, opioids and alcohol.
We review evidence from human studies in chronic substance abusers using
three methodologies: (i) studies on 'pure' users of one particular
substance, (ii) studies that methodologically control the effects of
drugs co-abused, and (iii) studies contrasting subgroups of
polysubstance users with different drugs of choice. Converging evidence
from these approaches indicates that all the drugs studied are commonly
associated with significant alterations in the neuropsychological
domains of episodic memory, emotional processing, and the executive
components of updating and decision-making. However, there is evidence
of a greater reliability in the association of certain substances with
specific neuropsychological domains. Specifically, there are relatively
more robust effects of psychostimulants and alcohol use on impulsive
action and cognitive flexibility, of alcohol and MDMA use on spatial
processing, perceptual speed and selective attention, cannabis and
methamphetamine on prospective memory deficits, and cannabis and MDMA on
processing speed and complex planning. The magnitude of both
generalized and specific neuropsychological effects is overall
attenuated in samples achieving long-term abstinence, but there are
persistent psychostimulant-related effects on updating, inhibition,
flexibility and emotional processing, and opioid-related effects on
updating and decision-making.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Neuroscience, Psychology


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Last updated on 2019-13-08 at 00:15