The influence of adolescent attention functioning on the development of substance abuse was studied in 66 high-risk youths over an 8-year period at the University of California San Diego Department of Psychiatry. Substance involvement was assessed by self-report, resource person reports, and randomly sampled toxicology screens at interviews at ages 15 through 23. Lower scores on neuropsychological tests of attention/executive functioning at intake assessment were prospectively (8 years later) associated with greater frequency of substance use and marijuana use in particular. Youths who met one or more substance dependence criteria as adults had significantly poorer attention performance in adolescence. Gender, education, conduct disorder, family history of substance use disorders, and learning disabilities did not influence the relationship between attention functioning and substance involvement. Clinical diagnoses of ADHD were not available in this patient population and study. [1]

COMMENT. Adolescents with impaired attention functioning are at increased risk for development of alcohol and drug involvement.