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Effects of Alcohol- and Cigarette-Use Disorders on Global and Specific Measures of Cognition in Middle-Age Adults

Kristin Caspers, Stephan Arndt, Rebecca Yucuis, Lowell McKirgan, Ruth Spinks

Objective: This study examined the effects of alcohol- and tobacco-use disorders on global and specific cognitive abilities in middle age. Method: The sample consisted of 118 men and 169 women ranging in age from 31 to 60 years (M [SD] = 43.59 [6.58]). Lifetime diagnoses were determined from a semistructured interview. Information about current levels of alcohol and cigarette use was also collected. A comprehensive neurocognitive assessment measuring global cognition, memory, and executive-functioning abilities was administered. Baseline cognition was estimated from average composite scores of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills school-achievement tests administered from third through eighth grade. Repeated-measures analysis of variance was used. Covariates comprised baseline cognition, current depression symptoms, and medication use. Results: Lifetime alcohol- and tobacco-use disorders were not associated with cognition among men. Women having a diagnosis of tobacco dependence (according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition [DSM-IV]) performed less well on measures of global cognition and executive functioning. A lifetime diagnosis of DSM-IV alcohol abuse or dependence was associated with higher working memory among women only. Conclusions: These results demonstrate few negative effects of alcohol-use disorders on midlife cognition, especially if current consumption is light. Differential susceptibility to the effects of cigarette use on cognition was found with women showing greater deficits in visuospatial abilities, processing speed, and executive-functioning abilities. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 71, 192-200, 2010)