Cannabis use and cognitive function in first episode psychosis: Differential effect of heavy use

Christian Núñez*, Susana Ochoa, Elena Huerta-Ramos, Iris Baños, Ana Barajas, Montserrat Dolz, Bernardo Sánchez, Núria Del Cacho, Judith Usall, S. Araya, B. Arranz, M. Arteaga, R. Asensio, J. Autonell, M. Bañuelos, M. Barceló, M. Blanc, M. Borrás, E. Busquets, J. CarlsonV. Carral, M. Castro, C. Corbacho, M. Coromina, J. Cuevas, I. Dachs, M. Domenech, M. Elias, I. Espezel, E. Falo, A. Fargas, A. Foix, M. Fusté, M. Godrid, D. Gómez, O. González, L. Granell, L. Gumà, J. M. Haro, S. Herrera, F. Lacasa, N. Mas, L. Martí, R. Martínez, J. Matalí, A. Miñambres, L. Miquel, D. Muñoz, V. Muñoz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale: First episode patients and patients with schizophrenia exhibit increased rates of cannabis use compared to the general population. Contrary to what has been reported in studies with healthy people, most of the published studies so far have reported no impairments or even beneficial effects on neurocognition associated with cannabis consumption in psychotic patients. However, these studies did not address the effects of very high cannabis consumption. Objectives: Our aim in this study was to assess the effects on neurocognition of medium and heavy cannabis consumption in first psychotic episode patients. Methods: A total of 74 patients were included in the study and assigned to three different groups according to their mean cannabis consumption during the last year (non-users, medium users, and heavy users). Participants were administered verbal memory and other neurocognitive tasks. Results: Heavy cannabis users were significantly impaired in all the verbal memory measures with respect to non-users, including immediate (p =.026), short-term (p =.005), and long-term (p =.002) memory. There were no significant differences between medium and non-users. Moreover, non-users performed better than all cannabis users in the arithmetic task (p =.020). Heavy cannabis consumption was associated with more commission errors in the continuous performance task (CPT) (p =.008) and more time to complete trail making test A (TMT-A) (p =.008), compared to the group of medium users. Conclusions: Heavy cannabis consumption seems to impair verbal memory in first psychotic episode patients. Heavy users also perform worse than medium users in other neurocognitive tasks. Based on the results and the available evidence, a dose-related effect of cannabis consumption is suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)809-821
Number of pages13
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • Cannabis
  • First psychotic episode
  • Memory
  • Neurocognition
  • Psychosis


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