Study Finds Psychological Deterioration in Drug Abusers

Study Finds Psychological Deterioration in Drug Abusers

A new study from researchers at Spain’s University of Granada has found that drug abusers have difficulty identifying negative emotions (such as anger, disgust, fear, and sadness) by their facial expressions. In addition, the study found that regular abuse of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine usually affects the users’ fluency and decision-making. Cocaine abuse is associated with changes in inhibition, and marijuana and cocaine use negatively affects work memory and reasoning.

For the study, the researchers performed a neuropsychological evaluation with 123 polysybstance abusers (those who abuse different types of drugs) and 67 non-drug users from similar social and demographic backgrounds. The polysubstance abusers mostly abused cocaine, marijuana, heroin, alcohol, MDMA, and methamphetamine, and were enrolled in two drug rehab programs (Proyecto Hombre and Cortijo Buenos Aires) in Granada.

The study found that 70 percent of drug abusers had some type of neuropsychological deterioration, regardless of the type of drug they used. Deterioration was found in working memory, fluency, flexibility, planning, multitasking, and interference.

This study is the first to study psychological deterioration in drug abusers who are enrolled in drug rehabilitation programs. Although previous studies have looked at emotional recognition by drug users, those studies focused on recognition as a unit process. The current study analyzed the relation between drug abuse and recognition of basic emotions such as happiness, fear, sadness, and surprise.

Lead author María José Fernández Serrano, along with professors Miguel Pérez García and Antonio Javier Verdejo García, of the Department of Personality and Psychological Treatment and Evaluation at the University of Granada, said she thinks that the study’s results could help develop policies aimed at promoting drug rehab programs that have been adapted to the neuropsychological profile of drug abusers.

Source: Science Daily, Drug-Abusers Have Difficulty to Recognize Negative Emotions as Wrath, Fear and Sadness, Study Finds, February 3, 2011

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