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August 1997

Impaired Color Vision in Cocaine-Withdrawn Patients

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School, Newark (Drs Desai and M. Roy and Mr Brown), and the Departments of Psychiatry (Dr A. Roy) and Psychology (Dr Smelson), Veterans Affairs Medical Center, East Orange, NJ.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1997;54(8):696-699. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1997.01830200020003

Background:  The main reinforcing effect of cocaine happens by altering dopaminergic neurotransmission in the brain reward systems. Dopamine is found in high concentrations in the retina in which it plays an important role in color vision. Therefore, we investigated whether cocainedependent patients might have impaired color vision.

Methods:  We compared patients recently withdrawn from cocaine (n=31) with matched normal controls (n=31) on 2 color vision tests.

Results:  Cocaine-withdrawn patients had significantly higher error scores than matched controls on the Farns-worth-Munsell 100-hue and Lanthony desaturated D-15 color vision tests. Also, 23 of the 31 cocaine-withdrawn patients had blue-yellow color vision losses on the Farns-worth-Munsell 100-hue test compared with 3 controls (P<.001,χ2test) and 15 had blue-yellow color vision loss on the Lanthony desaturated D-15 test compared with 2 controls (P<.001,χ2 test).

Conclusions:  These significantly higher test error scores and blue-yellow color vision losses suggest that color vision is impaired in cocaine-withdrawn patients. Color vision testing may be useful in future studies of cocainedependent patients.