Researchers Find Substance Abuse Affects Memory & Attention

Oftentimes it requires studies to verify the seemingly obvious. For instance, there was a recent study that concluded that substance use affected memory and attention. However, while it may seem obvious, it is actually quite important that the study was conducted. This is because the researchers did not look at people who were addicted to drugs, instead they looked at people who have used and sometimes use drugs. This distinction is important because it shows the devastating effects of drugs and alcohol on even the novice user.

The research, conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical Center found that the more drugs and/or alcohol one used, the more trouble they exhibited with memory and attention. After analyzing data gathered from 36,085 volunteers, the researchers were able to determine that poorer attention was linked with both frequent and infrequent binge drinking and drug use. Those that used no drugs, those that used fewer drugs than some, and those that used a lot of drugs all had comparative decreases in memory and attention. This means that someone who reported a higher rate of drug use would have poorer memory than someone who used infrequently. However, a person that used drugs infrequently would have poorer memory and attention than someone who never used illicit substances.

The researchers point out that this study illustrates a major problem among drug users and drug addicts. Because attention and memory are lacking in these people, it may be begin to effect their daily lives – another indicator that their drug use is getting out of control.

“Regardless if cognitive impairments precede substance use or vice versa, poorer cognitive functioning negatively impacts daily life and may cause lack of insight into one’s substance use as a source of problems, impeding treatment utilization or decreasing the likelihood of effective treatment” explained Deborah Hasin, lead author of the study.

Furthermore, the researchers are unclear as to whether the memory and attention loss can be rectified with abstinence or decreased drug and alcohol use. They agree that further studies need to be conducted in order to understand the full scope of the problem and how to solve it.