Cognitive impairments in adolescent cannabis users are related to THC levels

Erin E. Shannon, Charles W. Mathias, Donald M. Dougherty, Anthony Liguori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objectives: Studies of the neurocognitive impairments resulting from cannabis use have primarily depended on selfreports to classify heavy versus light cannabis use. Several factors such as body mass and individual differences in tetrahydro Cannabinol (THC) metabolism can lead to a large range of circulating levels of THC among persons who report similar cannabis use. This study examined decision-making and attention as a function of urine levels of THC in a sample of adolescents who reported similar frequency of cannabis use. Methods: Adolescents who reported cannabis use at least 4 days per week were assigned to 1 of the 2 groups based on a median split of THC/creatinine ratios on the day of cognitive testing (high THC and low THC). Cognitive testing included a decision-making task and a test of sustained attention. Results: The high THC group made significantly more disadvantageous choices on the decision-making task and also performed less accurately on a task of sustained attention compared with the low THC group. Conclusions: These results suggest that among adolescent cannabis users who are homogenous in their reported frequency of cannabis use, heterogeneity in urine levels of THC is associated with differences in cognitive impairment. Examining the levels of THC metabolites in the urine may uncover differences in cannabis users that may be masked or minimized if users with large variability in their urinary levels of THC are pooled into the same group based on selfreports of cannabis use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)158-163
Number of pages6
JournalAddictive Disorders and their Treatment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010


  • Adolescents
  • Attention
  • Cannabis
  • Decision-making
  • Marijuana
  • THC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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