Methamphetamine (MA) is one of the most commonly abused illicit substances worldwide. Among other problems, abuse of the drug has been associated with reduced cognitive function across several domains. However, much of the literature has not attempted to differentiate cognitive difficulties caused by MA abuse from preexisting cognitive difficulties that are likely caused by other factors. Here, we address this question, evaluating evidence for a priori hypotheses pertaining to six lines of research: (a) animal studies; (b) cross-sectional human studies; (c) a twin study; (d) studies of changes in cognition with abstinence from MA; (e) studies of changes in brain structure and function with abstinence from MA; and (f) studies of the relationship between the severity of MA abuse and the extent of cognitive deficits observed. Overall the findings were mixed, with some support for a causal relationship between MA abuse and cognitive decline, and other findings suggesting that there is no relationship. The preponderance of the data, however, does support the possibility that MA abuse causes cognitive decline, of unknown duration, in at least some users of the drug. When averaged across individuals, this decline is likely to be mild in early-to-middle adulthood. However, moderator variables are likely to contribute to the presence and/or severity of cognitive decline exhibited by a given individual.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by NIH grants K23 DA927734 (ACD), DA 022539 (EDL), DA 020726 (EDL), DA 15179 (EDL), T32 DA024635 (EDL), F31 DA028812 (SMG), and endowments from the Thomas P and Katherine K Pike Chair in Addiction Studies and the Marjorie M Greene Trust.