August 1, 1999
A study out next week is one of few to track lingering effects of cocaine use. Comparing key mental abilities of cocaine users with matched subjects who have never taken drugs, researchers with Johns Hopkins and The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) observed definite deficiencies in the drug users -- ones that roughly correspond to the size of the user's typical dose of cocaine -- after they've stopped the drug.
Particularly affected, the researchers say, is drug users' ability to make choices and decisions, their skill at long-range planning and their memory. In the study, scientists gave 30 newly-abstaining cocaine users and 21 non-drug-using controls a series of standard mental tests. Though the work looked at cocaine-users only a month after they'd quit, the scientists say it's important because the results are so clear and because the research avoids problems that have plagued other studies. They plan to extend the drug-free time to longer periods, to see if the trend holds up.
Neurologist Karen Bolla, of Hopkins and NIDA and co-author of the study, is available for interviews August 2 or thereafter. The study appears in the Summer issue of The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. The embargo date is Sunday, August 1. A NIDA press release is available on EurekAlert.