The British Journal of Psychiatry
Cannabis use before age 15 and subsequent executive functioning
Maria Alice Fontes, Karen I. Bolla, Paulo Jannuzzi Cunha, Priscila Previato Almeida, Flávia Jungerman, Ronaldo Ramos Laranjeira, Rodrigo A. Bressan, Acioly L. T. Lacerda



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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