Changes in cocaine consumption are associated with fluctuations in self-reported impulsivity and gambling decision-making


In cross-sectional studies, cocaine users generally display elevated levels of self-reported and cognitive impulsivity. To what extent these impairments are stable v. variable markers of cocaine use disorder, and, thus, are pre-existing or drug-induced, has not yet been systematically investigated.

We conducted a longitudinal study with cocaine users who changed or maintained their consumption intensity, measuring self-reported impulsivity with the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11), and cognitive impulsivity with the Rapid Visual Processing task (RVP), Iowa Gambling task (IGT), and Delay Discounting task (DD) at baseline and at 1-year follow-up. We assessed 48 psychostimulant-naive controls and 19 cocaine users with decreased, 19 users with increased, and 19 users with unchanged cocaine intake after 1 year as confirmed by hair analysis.

Results of linear multilevel modelling showed significant group × time interactions for the BIS-11 total score and the IGT total card ratio. Increasers showed a trend for elevated scores, whereas decreasers exhibited reduced self-reported impulsivity scores within 1 year. Surprisingly, increasers' IGT performance was improved after 1 year, whereas decreasers' performance deteriorated. By contrast, neither RVP response bias B" nor DD total score showed substantial group × time interactions. Importantly, BIS-11 and DD revealed strong test-retest reliabilities.

Self-reported impulsivity (BIS-11) and decision-making impulsivity (IGT) covary with changing cocaine use, whereas response bias and delay discounting remain largely unaffected. Thus, self-reported impulsivity and gambling decision-making were strongly state-dependent in a stimulant-using population and may be suitable to monitor treatment success, whereas delay of gratification was confirmed as a potential endophenotype of stimulant addiction.

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