Cannabis use and episodic memory performance among adolescents: Moderating effects of depression symptoms and sex


Cannabis use has been linked to poorer episodic memory. However, little is known about whether depression and sex may interact as potential moderators of this association, particularly among adolescents. The current study addresses this by examining interactions between depression symptoms and sex on the association between cannabis use and episodic memory in a large sample of adolescents.


Cross-sectional data from 360 adolescents (M age = 17.38, SD = .75) were analyzed at the final assessment wave of a two-year longitudinal study. We used the Drug Use History Questionnaire to assess for lifetime cannabis use, and the Computerized Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children, Fourth edition to assess the number of depression symptoms in the past year. Subtests from the Wechsler Memory Scale, Fourth Edition and the California Verbal Learning Test, Second Edition were used to assess episodic memory performance.


The effect of the three-way interaction among cannabis use, depression symptoms, and sex did not have a significant impact on episodic memory performance. However, follow-up analyses revealed a significant effect of the two-way interaction of cannabis use and depression symptoms on episodic memory, such that associations between cannabis use and episodic memory were only significant at lower and average levels of depression symptoms.


Contrary to our hypotheses, we found that as depression symptoms increased, the negative association between cannabis use and episodic memory diminished. Given the use of a predominantly subsyndromic sample, future studies should attempt to replicate findings among individuals with more severe depression.


adolescence; cannabis; depression; episodic memory; moderation; sex differences.

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