Marijuana use is disproportionately prevalent among HIV-infected individuals. The strongest neurocognitive effect of marijuana use is impairment in the domain of memory. Memory impairment is also high among HIV-infected persons. The present study examined 69 HIV-infected individuals who were stratified by age of regular marijuana initiation to investigate how marijuana use impacts neurocognitive functioning. A comprehensive battery assessed substance use and neurocognitive functioning. Findings indicated early onset marijuana users (regular use prior to age 18), compared to non-marijuana users and late onset marijuana users (regular use at age 18 or later), were over 8 times more likely to have learning impairment and nearly 4 times more likely to have memory impairment. A similar pattern of early onset marijuana users performing worse in learning emerged when examining domain deficit scores. The potential for early onset of regular marijuana use to exacerbate already high levels of memory impairment among HIV-infected persons has important clinical implications, including increased potential for medication non-adherence and difficulty with independent living.
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Acknowledgements This study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (F31-DA035131, K23-DA028660, & R03-DA035670), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (T32-AI007392), & the Duke Center for AIDS Research (P30-AI064518).
- Neurocognitive functioning