Background: Mobile assessment of the effects of acute marijuana on cognitive functioning in the natural environment would provide an ecologically valid measure of the impacts of marijuana use on daily functioning. Objective: This study aimed to examine the association of reported acute subjective marijuana high (rated 0-10) with performance on 3 mobile cognitive tasks measuring visuospatial working memory (Flowers task), attentional bias to marijuana-related cues (marijuana Stroop), and information processing and psychomotor speed (digit symbol substitution task [DSST]). The effect of distraction as a moderator of the association between the rating of subjective marijuana high and task performance (ie, reaction time and number of correct responses) was explored. Methods: Young adults (aged 18-25 years; 37/60, 62% female) who reported marijuana use at least twice per week were recruited through advertisements and a participant registry in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Phone surveys and mobile cognitive tasks were delivered 3 times per day and were self-initiated when starting marijuana use. Completion of phone surveys triggered the delivery of cognitive tasks. Participants completed up to 30 days of daily data collection. Multilevel models examined associations between ratings of subjective marijuana high (rated 0-10) and performance on each cognitive task (reaction time and number of correct responses) and tested the number of distractions (rated 0-4) during the mobile task session as a moderator of the association between ratings of subjective marijuana high and task performance. Results: Participants provided 2703 data points, representing 451 reports (451/2703, 16.7%) of marijuana use. Consistent with slight impairing effects of acute marijuana use, an increase in the average rating of subjective marijuana high was associated with slower average reaction time on all 3 tasks-Flowers (B=2.29; SE 0.86; P=.008), marijuana Stroop (B=2.74; SE 1.09; P=.01), and DSST (B=3.08; SE 1.41; P=.03)-and with fewer correct responses for Flowers (B=−0.03; SE 0.01; P=.01) and DSST (B=−0.18; SE 0.07; P=.01), but not marijuana Stroop (P=.45). Results for distraction as a moderator were statistically significant only for certain cognitive tasks and outcomes. Specifically, as hypothesized, a person's average number of reported distractions moderated the association of the average rating of subjective marijuana high (over and above a session's rating) with the reaction time for marijuana Stroop (B=−52.93; SE 19.38; P=.006) and DSST (B=−109.72; SE 42.50; P=.01) and the number of correct responses for marijuana Stroop (B=−0.22; SE 0.10; P=.02) and DSST (B=4.62; SE 1.81; P=.01). Conclusions: Young adults' performance on mobile cognitive tasks in the natural environment was associated with ratings of acute subjective marijuana high, consistent with slight decreases in cognitive functioning. Monitoring cognitive functioning in real time in the natural environment holds promise for providing immediate feedback to guide personal decision making.
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