Neuropsychological comparisons of cocaine versus methamphetamine users: a research synthesis and meta-analysis

<p><i>Background</i>: Previous meta-analytical research examining cocaine and methamphetamine separately suggests potentially different neuropsychological profiles associated with each drug. In addition, neuroimaging studies point to distinct structural changes that might underlie differences in neuropsychological functioning. <i>Objectives</i>: This meta-analysis compared the effect sizes identified in cocaine versus methamphetamine studies across 15 neuropsychological domains. <i>Method</i>: Investigators searched and coded the literature examining the neuropsychological deficits associated with a history of either cocaine or methamphetamine use. A total of 54 cocaine and 41 methamphetamine studies were selected, yielding sample sizes of 1,718 and 1,297, respectively. Moderator analyses were conducted to compare the two drugs across each cognitive domain. <i>Results</i>: Data revealed significant differences between the two drugs. Specifically, studies of cocaine showed significantly larger effect-size estimates (i.e., poorer performance) in verbal working memory when compared to methamphetamine. Further, when compared to cocaine, methamphetamine studies demonstrated significantly larger effect sizes in delayed contextual verbal memory and delayed visual memory. <i>Conclusion</i>: Overall, cocaine and methamphetamine users share similar neuropsychological profiles. However, cocaine appears to be more associated with working memory impairments, which are typically frontally mediated, while methamphetamine appears to be more associated with memory impairments that are linked with temporal and parietal lobe dysfunction.</p>