A twin study of the neuropsychological
consequences of stimulant abuse

Toomey R, Lyons MJ, Eisen SA, Xian H,
Chantarujikapong S, Seidman LJ, Faraone SV, Tsuang MT.
Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital,
Bldg 149-9121E, 13th St, Charlestown, MA 02129.
Arch Gen Psychiatry 2003 Mar;60(3):303-10


BACKGROUND: Previous studies document neuropsychological deficits associated with stimulant abuse, but findings are inconsistent. METHODS: We identified 50 twin pairs in which only 1 member had heavy stimulant abuse (cocaine and/or amphetamines) ending at least 1 year before the evaluation. The co-twin control research design controls for familial vulnerability and makes it easier to identify neuropsychological deficits that are consequences of stimulant abuse. Subjects were administered an extensive neuropsychological test battery organized into the following 5 functions: attention, executive functioning, motor skills, intelligence, and memory. RESULTS: Multivariate tests showed that abusers performed significantly worse than nonabusers on functions of attention and motor skills. Within each of these functions, univariate tests showed that abusers performed significantly worse on certain tests of motor skills and attention. In contrast, abusers performed significantly better on one test of attention measuring visual vigilance. Within the abuser group, higher levels of stimulant use were largely uncorrelated with neuropsychological test scores, although a few significant correlations indicated better functioning with more stimulant use. CONCLUSIONS: With ideal controls, this study demonstrates that deficits in attention and motor skills persist after 1 year of abstinence from stimulant use and raises hypotheses regarding relative strengths on a vigilance task among abusers.

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