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An Evidence-Based Review of Acute and Long-Term Effects of Cannabis Use on Executive Cognitive Functions

Crean, Rebecca D. PhD; Crane, Natania A. BA; Mason, Barbara J. PhD

Journal of Addiction Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ADM.0b013e31820c23fa

Cannabis use may impair cognitive functions on a number of levels—from basic motor coordination to more complex executive function tasks, such as the ability to plan, organize, solve problems, make decisions, remember, and control emotions and behavior. These deficits differ in severity depending on the quantity, recency, age of onset, and duration of marijuana use. Understanding how cannabis use impairs executive function is important for clinicians. Individuals with cannabis-related impairment in executive functions have been found to have trouble learning and applying the skills required for successful recovery, putting them at increased risk for relapse to cannabis use. Here, we review the research on the acute, residual, and long-term effects of cannabis use on executive functions and discuss the implications for treatment.

Author Information

From the Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA.

Received for publication October 28, 2010; accepted December 16, 2010.

The authors declare no conflict of interests.

Send correspondence and reprint requests to Barbara J. Mason, PhD, Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, TPC-5, La Jolla, CA 92037. E-mail:

Supported by the NIH Grant P20 DA024194.

© 2011 American Society of Addiction Medicine