Neuropsychological effects associated with recreational cocaine use

Kirstie Soar, Colette Mason, Anita Potton, Lynne Dawkins
Psychopharmacology 2012, 222 (4): 633-43

RATIONALE: Recent evidence suggests that recreational cocaine use is on the increase, with the UK reporting one of the highest levels of use in the EU (EMCDDA 2010). Nevertheless, very few studies have addressed the neuropsychological effects associated with non-dependent recreational cocaine use.

OBJECTIVES: The current study aimed to assess whether recreational cocaine users show neuropsychological deficits on a battery of tests, previously shown to be sensitive to cocaine-dependent and psychosis-prone individuals. Schizotypal traits were also measured.

METHODS: Recreational cocaine users (n = 17) were compared with controls (n = 24) on drug use patterns, the General Health Questionnaire, the Brief Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire (SPQ-B) and four neuropsychological tasks: spatial working memory, intra/extra-dimensional set shifting, the Stocking of Cambridge and the rapid visual processing.

RESULTS: Relative to controls, recreational cocaine users produced significantly more errors on the intra/extra-dimensional set shift task and completed fewer stages, made significantly more six box stage errors on the spatial working memory task, and made significantly more errors and fewer hits, with overall poorer detection rates on the rapid visual processing task. Recreational cocaine users reported significantly higher scores on the cognitive perceptual and disorganised thinking SPQ-B subscales and total SPQ-B scores compared to controls.

CONCLUSIONS: Recreational cocaine users displayed impairments on tasks tapping sustained attention, attentional shifting and spatial memory and reported higher schizotypal trait expression. These findings are consistent with the emerging literature suggesting subtle cognitive deficits, putatively reflecting underlying dopaminergic dysfunction, in non-dependent, recreational cocaine users.

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