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The effects of methamphetamine on neurocognition in existing and recovering addicts

M.A. / The aim of the present study was to establish the existence of potential cognitive impairment in a group of 14 currently using methamphetamine addicts in comparison to a group of 17 abstinent recovering methamphetamine addicts and a matched control group of 18 participants. The current study was undertaken as methamphetamine abuse has risen dramatically over the past several years (Hart, Ward, Haney, Foltin & Fischman, 2001). This resurgence into popular culture imposes a sense of urgency for understanding the effects of methamphetamine medically and neurologically (Simon et al., 2000; Volkow et al., 2001a). Twenty nine million people consumed amphetamine-type stimulants in the late 1990s, a larger number than that of people using cocaine and opiates combined (World Health Organisation, 2001). South Africa is one of the countries world-wide that is currently experiencing a methamphetamine pandemic. The startling increase of methamphetamine use in South Africa is further exacerbated by the fact that 80 percent of methamphetamine users in the Western Cape are under 21 years of age, according to the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) (Morris & Parry, 2006). Methamphetamine has been established as neurotoxic in chronic doses abused by humans. The resultant deleterious consequences of this drug on cognitive functioning have led researchers to conclude that the observed deficits are as a direct result of methamphetamine’s neurotoxicity (Nordahl, Salo & Leamon, 2003; Vocci & Appel, 2007; Yucel, Lubman, Solowij & Brewer, 2007). Amongst the cognitive functions affected by methamphetamine, preliminary findings indicate that attention, memory and executive functioning may potentially be compromised (Barr et al., 2006). These findings need to be corroborated in the South African milieu using culture fair measuring instruments. Furthermore the possible effects of previous use of methamphetamine in recovering addicts need to be ascertained. A comparative and quantitative ex post facto research design was utilised in the research. Participants were selected according to stringent inclusion and exclusion criteria. A neuropsychological test battery, comprising of pen and pencil tests, was used to assess the cognitive functions of attention, memory and executive functioning in the two experimental groups and the control participants. Statistical analysis was performed on the raw data by the Statistical Consultation Service of the University of Johannesburg. The research was conducted according to a specified code of ethics stipulated for psychological research. Significant results were established between the two experimental groups in comparison to each other and the control group for the cognitive functions of attention and memory. Assessment of executive functioning yielded results in which significant results were observed between the current and recovering users of methamphetamine and between the control group and recovering methamphetamine addicts. There were no significant results detected between the current users of methamphetamine and the control group regarding executive functioning.
Date08 December 2011
CreatorsVan Wyk, Cindy
Source SetsSouth African National ETD Portal
Detected LanguageEnglish

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