Prevalence of Cognitive Impairment in Patients with Substance Use Disorder


Introduction and Aims

Cognitive impairments in substance use disorder predict treatment outcome and are assumed to differ between substances. They often go undetected, thus the current study focuses on the prevalence of and differences in cognitive functioning across substances by means of a cognitive screen at the early stage of addiction treatment.

Design and Methods

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment was administered to outpatients seeking treatment for substance use disorder. Patient characteristics (age, years of regular use, polysubstance use, severity of dependence/abuse, depression, anxiety and stress) were also taken into account.


A total of 656 patients were included (n = 391 used alcohol, n = 123 used cannabis, n = 100 used stimulants and n = 26 used opioids). The prevalence of cognitive impairments was 31%. Patients using alcohol had a lower total‐ and memory domain score than those using cannabis. Patients using opioids scored lower on visuospatial abilities than those using cannabis or stimulants. Younger patients scored higher than older patients. No effect was found for the other investigated characteristics.

Discussion and Conclusions

Given the high prevalence of cognitive impairments, standard screening at an early stage of treatment is important to determine the course of treatment and maximise treatment outcome. Caution is needed in interpreting results about opioids due to an underrepresentation of this patient group, and more research is needed on the effect of age on Montreal Cognitive Assessment performance.

Bruijnen, C. J., Dijkstra, B. A., Walvoort, S. J., Markus, W., VanDerNagel, J. E., Kessels, R. P., & DE Jong, C. A. (2019). Prevalence of cognitive impairment in patients with substance use disorder. Drug and alcohol review.
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