Frontal systems deficits in stimulant-dependent patients: Evidence of pre-illness dysfunction and relationship to treatment response

Theresa M. Winhusen, Eugene C. Somoza, Daniel F. Lewis, Frankie B. Kropp, Viviana Elizabeth Horigian, Bryon Adinoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: Frontal systems dysfunction is present in stimulant-dependent patients. However, it is unclear whether this dysfunction is a pre-morbid risk factor or stimulant-induced, is severe enough to be clinically relevant, and if it is relevant to treatment response. These questions were addressed using the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale (FrSBe), a reliable and valid self-report assessment of three neurobehavioral domains associated with frontal systems functioning (Apathy, Disinhibition, and Executive Dysfunction, summed for a Total), that assesses both pre- and post-morbid functioning, and has a specific cutoff for defining clinically significant abnormalities. Method: Six sites evaluating 12-step facilitation for stimulant abusers obtained the FrSBe from 180 methamphetamine- and/or cocaine-dependent participants. Dichotomous treatment response measures included self-reported stimulant use, stimulant urine drug screens, and treatment completion. Results: A substantial percentage of participants retrospectively reported clinically significant neurobehavioral abnormalities prior to lifetime stimulant abuse initiation (e.g., 67.5% on FrSBe-Total) with a significant increase in the proportion reporting such abnormalities for current functioning (86% on FrSBe-Total; p< 0.0001). Treatment response was significantly worse for participants with, relative to those without, clinically significant Disinhibition as measured by treatment non-completion (31.6% vs. 15.6%, OR = 2.51) and self-reported stimulant use during treatment (40.5% vs. 16.7%, OR = 3.40). Conclusion: These findings suggest that frontal systems dysfunction is present prior to stimulant-abuse onset and worsens with stimulant use. Disinhibition may be a prime target for intervention in stimulant-dependent individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-100
Number of pages7
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


  • Cocaine
  • FrSBe
  • Methamphetamine
  • Prefrontal cortex dysfunction
  • Stimulant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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