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Effects of Chronic, Heavy Cannabis Use on Executive Functions

Crean, Rebecca D. PhD; Tapert, Susan F. PhD; Minassian, Arpi PhD; MacDonald, Kai MD; Crane, Natania A. BA; Mason, Barbara J. PhD

Journal of Addiction Medicine: March 2011 - Volume 5 - Issue 1 - p 9-15
doi: 10.1097/ADM.0b013e31820cdd57
Clinical Case Conference

This case describes the clinical course of a cannabis-dependent individual entering a 12-week abstinence-based research program. The case illustrates the effects of chronic, heavy cannabis use on executive functions at 3 time points: (1) 12 hours of abstinence; (2) 4 weeks of abstinence; and (3) 12 weeks of abstinence. It is followed by discussions by 2 clinical psychologists and a psychiatrist. The findings described here have important clinical implications, because executive functions have a vital role in treatment participation and in sustaining recovery. It should be of particular interest to clinicians who work with people with cannabis use disorders.

From the Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders (R.D.C., N.A.C., B.J.M.), The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla; Department of Psychiatry (S.F.T., A.M.), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla; and Private Practice (K.M.), San Diego, CA.

Received for publication December 14, 2010; accepted December 22, 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, San Diego, CA 92037. E-mail:

Supported by the NIH grant P20 DA024194.

© 2011 American Society of Addiction Medicine