The Route of Administration Exacerbates Prefrontal Functional Impairments in Crack Cocaine Users


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Abstract

Studies have evidenced more severe health consequences in individuals who smoked crack cocaine as compared to intranasal cocaine users. Differential neurocognitive deficits between the crack and intranasal cocaine–addicted patients, associated with prefrontal cortex functions, have never been tested using complex cognitive tasks in humans. In this study, we examined possible distinct neurocognitive deficits in 43 crack-addicted patients (CrD) compared with 36 intranasal cocaine–addicted patients (CD) and 32 controls. CrD and CD were evaluated after 2 weeks of supervised detoxification in two inpatient treatment programs. All the subjects were evaluated using an extensive battery of neurocognitive tasks, including the Trail Making Test, the Stroop Color-Word Test, the Digits Forward and Digits Backward tasks, the Controlled Oral Word Association Test, the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, and the Frontal Assessment Battery. Differences in performance in the neurocognitive tests between the three groups were investigated controlling for age, IQ, psychiatric symptoms, and years of education. Both intranasal and crack users were impaired on a variety of cognitive measures relative to controls. Crack users performed worse than intranasal cocaine users in inhibitory control (p < .05) and general executive functioning (p < .01). Crack use seems to be more deleterious to neurocognitive functions associated with the prefrontal cortex. This may predispose crack-addicted patients to more severe negative clinical outcomes.

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