The effects of synthetic cannabinoids on executive function

K. Cohen, M. Kapitány-Fövény, Y. Mama, M. Arieli, P. Rosca, Z. Demetrovics, A. Weinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Background and aims: There is a growing use of novel psychoactive substances (NPSs) including synthetic cannabinoids. Synthetic cannabinoid products have effects similar to those of natural cannabis but the new synthetic cannabinoids are more potent and dangerous and their use has resulted in various adverse effects. The purpose of the study was to assess whether persistent use of synthetic cannabinoids is associating with impairments of executive function in chronic users. Methods: A total of 38 synthetic cannabinoids users, 43 recreational cannabis users, and 41 non-user subjects were studied in two centers in Hungary and Israel. Computerized cognitive function tests, the classical Stroop word-color task, n-back task, and a free-recall memory task were used. Results: Synthetic cannabinoid users performed significantly worse than both recreational and non-cannabis users on the n-back task (less accuracy), the Stroop task (overall slow responses and less accuracy), and the long-term memory task (less word recall). Additionally, they have also shown higher ratings of depression and anxiety compared with both recreational and non-users groups. Discussion: This study showed impairment of executive function in synthetic cannabinoid users compared with recreational users of cannabis and non-users. This may have major implications for our understanding of the long-term consequences of synthetic cannabinoid based drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1121-1134
Number of pages14
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • Cannabis
  • Control inhibition
  • Long-term memory
  • Synthetic cannabinoids
  • Working memory


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