The Executive Functioning Paradox in Substance Use Disorders
Biomedicines. 2022-10-28; 10(11): 2728
Deficits in neurocognitive functioning are trait-like vulnerabilities that have been widely studied in persons with substance use disorders (SUD), but their role in the craving–use association and relapse vulnerability remains poorly understood. The main objectives of this study were to examine whether executive capacities moderate the magnitude of the craving–substance use relationship, and if this influence is correlated with the functional connectivity of cerebral networks, combining rsfMRI examinations and ecological momentary assessment (EMA). Eighty-six patients beginning outpatient treatment for alcohol, tobacco or cannabis addiction and 40 healthy controls completed neuropsychological tests followed by EMA to collect real-time data on craving. Fifty-four patients and 30 healthy controls also completed a resting-state fMRI before the EMA. Among the patients with SUD, better verbal fluency and resistance to interference capacities were associated with a greater propensity to use substances when the individual was experiencing craving. Preliminary rsfMRI results identified specific networks that interacted with executive performance capacities to influence the magnitude of the craving–use association. Individuals with better executive functioning may be more prone to relapse after craving episodes. Specifically, better resistance to interference and cognitive flexibility skills may reduce attention to distracting stimuli, leading to a greater awareness of craving and susceptibility to use substances.