Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

Substance use and withdrawal: Neuropsychological functioning over 8 years in youth

SUSAN F.  TAPERT  a1 a2 c1, ERIC  GRANHOLM  a1 a2, NATHAN G.  LEEDY  a3 and SANDRA A.  BROWN  a1 a2 a3
a1 VA San Diego Healthcare System, Psychology Service, San Diego, California
a2 University of California, Department of Psychiatry, San Diego, California
a3 University of California, Department of Psychology, San Diego, California


This study prospectively examined neuropsychological (NP) functioning associated with adolescent substance use and withdrawal. Participants were youths with histories of substance use disorders (n = 47) and demographically comparable youths with no such lifetime histories (n = 26). They were followed with NP testing and substance involvement interviews at 7 time points spanning 8 years, from ages 16 to 24, on average. After controlling for recent use, age, education, practice effects, and baseline NP functioning, substance use over the 8-year follow-up period significantly predicted performances on tests of memory and attention at Year 8. Additionally, withdrawal symptoms during the follow-up predicted visuospatial and attention scores at Year 8. Findings suggest that use and withdrawal may differentially impact neurocognitive functioning during youth, with heavy use leading to learning, retention, and attentional difficulties, and withdrawal leading to problems with visuospatial functioning. (JINS, 2002, 8, 873–883.)

(Received September 5 2001)
(Revised December 6 2001)
(Accepted December 7 2001)

Key Words: Adolescence; Young adulthood; Youth; Substance use disorders; Withdrawal; Visuospatial functioning; Memory; Attention; Alcohol; Marijuana; Stimulants.

c1 Reprint requests to: Susan Tapert, VA San Diego Healthcare System, Psychology Service (116B), 3350 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, CA 92161. E-mail: