Master's Theses

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Art

Keywords

Cognitive Function, Aging, Cocaine smokers

Abstract

Substance abuse disorders are becoming more prevalent in the aging population. Cocaine, specifically, is a major concern as it is the most commonly reported illegal drug associated with emergency room visits among older adults. The combined effects of aging and long-term cocaine use may significantly impact cognitive function in aging cocaine smokers; however, there is relatively little literature on this matter. The purpose of this study was to compare cognitive function in aging cocaine smokers and healthy aging individuals. The study enrolled a total of 20 participants between the ages of 50 and 60. Fourteen participants were in the aging cocaine user group and six participants were in the aging control group. Based on the separate literature on cognitive function in aging adults and chronic cocaine users, the hypothesis was that attention, working memory, and executive function in particular would be more compromised in aging cocaine smokers than in healthy aging individuals. Participants were admitted into the study for a total of five days. During this time, they underwent a series of neuropsychological assessments measuring cognitive functions such as attention, working memory, executive function, and verbal memory. Although cocaine smokers had lower scores on almost all measures, they did not perform significantly worse than healthy aging individuals on the Digit Span Forward and Backward, Trail Making Test Part A and B, and the Controlled Oral Word Association tests. The results therefore do not support our hypothesis, likely due to lack of power given the small sample size. Future studies should examine these aspects of cognitive function in larger samples of aging cocaine smokers.

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