AIMS: It was hypothesized that adolescent substance dependence moderates the relationship between family history of alcohol dependence and neuropsychological functioning.
DESIGN: This study compared the neuropsychological functioning of non-abusing and alcohol and drug-dependent adolescents with and without a family history of alcohol dependence using hierarchical multiple regressions and general factorial analyses.
SETTING: Substance-dependent adolescents were recruited and tested in inpatient alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs after 3 weeks of abstinence. A matched sample of non-abusing adolescents was recruited from the same San Diego-area communities.
PARTICIPANTS: Substance-dependent adolescents (n = 101) met DSM-III-R criteria for dependence on alcohol and at least one other substance. Non-abusing adolescents (n = 50) had no substance use disorders. Groups were comparable on socio-economic status. Participants were 44% female, ages 13-18, and had no serious head injuries or neurological disorders.
MEASUREMENTS: Information was gathered on demographics, family history, substance involvement, and conduct disorder behaviors and adolescents were administered neuropsychological tests covering language, visuospatial, verbal memory, attention and executive functioning domains.
FINDINGS: The hypothesis was supported for language and attention tests. Substance involvement interacted with family history of alcohol dependence to predict language and attention functioning. Family history negative non-abusers performed better than the other adolescents.
CONCLUSIONS: The pattern of results suggests that family history of alcohol dependence and adolescent substance use are separate risk factors for poorer neuropsychological performance in youth.
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