Background and Objectives
Cannabis is a widely used substance that may impair select cognitive domains, including attention and memory. Problematic cannabis use is a common clinical problem among patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). Few studies have investigated the effects of cannabis abstinence on cognition in MDD. Thus, our study aimed to determine whether a 28-day period of cannabis abstinence is associated with improvements in cognition in patients with MDD and comorbid cannabis use disorder (CUD).
We evaluated the effects of 28 days of cannabis abstinence on cognition in MDD patients with comorbid CUD facilitated by contingency management, motivational interviewing, psychoeducation, and coping-skills training (N = 11). Primary outcomes included Baseline to Day 28 changes in verbal memory and learning, while secondary outcomes included Baseline to Day 28 changes in working memory, visuospatial working memory (VSWM), visual search speed, mental flexibility, response inhibition, attention, manual dexterity, and fine motor movement.
Eight participants (72.7%) met the pre-specified criteria for cannabis abstinence and three participants significantly reduced their cannabis use (≥90%). Visual search speed, selective attention, and VSWM improved over the study period. These improvements were not associated with changes in cannabis metabolite levels from baseline to endpoint.
Discussion and Conclusions
Our findings suggest that 28 days of cannabis abstinence may improve select cognitive domains in patients with MDD and comorbid CUD.
This was the first study to longitudinally examine the effects of cannabis on cognition in MDD. Clinical trial: Effects of Cannabis Abstinence on Symptoms and Cognition in Depression (NCT03624933; https://www.clinicaltrials.gov).