Risky cannabis use is associated with alexithymia, frontal lobe dysfunction, and impulsivity in young adult cannabis users
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Risky or problematic alcohol use by young adults has been found to be associated with factors such as alexithymia, frontal lobe dysfunction, reward sensitivity, and impulsivity. One interpretation is that these factors reflect inherent traits that predispose to risky substance use in general, a notion examined in the present study. Alexithymia, everyday frontal lobe functioning, sensitivity to reward and punishment, and impulsivity were examined in 138 young adult cannabis users who were divided into Low Risk (n = 99) and Risky (n = 39) users according to their Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test (CUDIT) scores. Risky cannabis use was significantly positively associated with alexithymia, multiple signs of frontal lobe dysfunction in everyday life, and impulsivity. A broader pattern of dysfunction was indicated for risky cannabis use than for risky alcohol use in this sample. Findings are interpreted as likely reflecting not only inherent traits that predispose to risky substance use in general, but also perhaps residual effects of recent heavy cannabis use in the Risky user group. Longitudinal research is needed to disentangle these competing possibilities.
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