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Cannabis and cognitive performance in psychosis: a cross-sectional study in patients with non-affective psychotic illness and their unaffected siblings

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 September 2011

J. H. Meijer
Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
N. Dekker
Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
M. W. Koeter
Amsterdam Institute for Addiction Research (AIAR), Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
P. J. Quee
Department of Psychiatry and Rob Giel Research Center, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
N. J. M. van Beveren
Department of Psychiatry, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
C. J. Meijer
Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
E-mail address:



The relationship between cannabis use and cognitive functioning in patients with psychosis has yielded contradictory findings. In individuals at genetic high risk for psychosis, information is sparse. The aim of this study was to assess the association between recency and frequency of cannabis use and cognitive functioning in patients with psychosis and their unaffected siblings.


We conducted a cross-sectional study in 956 patients with non-affective psychosis, 953 unaffected siblings, and 554 control subjects. Participants completed a cognitive test battery including assessments of verbal learning, set shifting, sustained attention, processing speed, working memory, acquired knowledge, reasoning and problem solving and social cognition. Cannabis use was assessed by urinalysis and by the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Using random-effect regression models the main effects of cannabis (recency and frequency) and the interaction with status (patient, sibling, control) on cognitive functioning were assessed.


Current cannabis use was associated with poorer performance on immediate verbal learning, processing speed and working memory (Cohen's d −0.20 to −0.33, p<0.005). Lifetime cannabis use was associated with better performance on acquired knowledge, facial affect recognition and face identity recognition (Cohen's d+0.17 to +0.33, p<0.005). There was no significant interaction between cannabis and status on cognitive functioning.


Lifetime cannabis-using individuals might constitute a subgroup with a higher cognitive potential. The residual effects of cannabis may impair short-term memory and processing speed.

Original Articles
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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Cannabis and cognitive performance in psychosis: a cross-sectional study in patients with non-affective psychotic illness and their unaffected siblings
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