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Many studies have suggested that adolescence is a period of particular
vulnerability to neurocognitive effects associated with substance misuse.
However, few large studies have measured differences in cognitive
performance between chronic cannabis users who started in early
adolescence (before age 15) with those who started later.
To examine the executive functioning of individuals who started chronic
cannabis use before age 15 compared with those who started chronic
cannabis use after 15 and controls.
We evaluated the performance of 104 chronic cannabis users (49
early-onset users and 55 late-onset users) and 44 controls who undertook
neuropsychological tasks, with a focus on executive functioning.
Comparisons involving neuropsychological measures were performed using
generalised linear model analysis of variance (ANOVA).
The early-onset group showed significantly poorer performance compared
with the controls and the late-onset group on tasks assessing sustained
attention, impulse control and executive functioning.
Early-onset chronic cannabis users exhibited poorer cognitive performance
than controls and late-onset users in executive functioning. Chronic
cannabis use, when started before age 15, may have more deleterious
effects on neurocognitive functioning.
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