To illustrate the need to carefully consider mental health, psychosocial and motivational factors when investigating cognitive and intellectual impairment among chronic inhalant users.
Two adolescent chronic inhalant users with similar psychosocial disadvantages (eg unstable and dysfunctional families, state-based care, school absenteeism and forensic issues) and histories of comorbid drug use and mental health problems were assessed using a battery of paper and pencil and computerised neuropsychological tests.
Contrary to the expectations of her case manager, one participant performed within the normal range for her age in all domains of intellectual ability, while the other participant, in line with the expectations of her case manger, showed marked cognitive deficits and intellectual disability.
The typically complex presentation of chronic inhalant users (ie disadvantaged psychosocial backgrounds, comorbid psychopathology and poor motivation/engagement) is rarely considered when investigating associated cognitive and intellectual functioning. Future research should more carefully consider the role of such factors, given the evidence suggesting that they can considerably alter (accentuate or diminish) the association between inhalant abuse and neuropsychological impairment.
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