Genetic Studies on Cannabis Addiction and Disorders

Genetic Studies on Cannabis Addiction and Disorders

Data from more than one million genomes (genetic makeup) provide new insights into excessive cannabis use and its relationship to other diseases.

By analyzing the genomes of more than one million people, researchers have identified stretches of DNA that may be linked to cannabis addiction. They also found that some of the same regions of the genome are associated with other health problems, such as lung cancer and schizophrenia.

Cannabis addiction

The findings are evidence that marijuana addiction could have substantial public health risks as marijuana use increases,” said Daniel Levey, a medical neuroscientist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and co-author of the study, published in Nature.

Recreational use is legal in at least eight countries, and 48 countries have legalized medicinal use of the drug for conditions such as chronic pain, cancer and epilepsy. But a third of people who use cannabis end up becoming addicted or using the drug in ways that are detrimental to their health. Previous studies have suggested that there is a genetic component and have shown links between problematic marijuana use and some cancers and psychiatric disorders.

Psychiatric disorders

Drug use and addiction can be influenced by both people’s genes and their environment, making them extremely difficult to study, Levey says. But the team was able to leverage data from previous work by incorporating genetic information from additional sources, primarily the Million Veterans Program, a U.S.-based biobank with a large genetic database that aims to improve medical care for former military personnel. The analysis included multiple ethnic groups, a first in a genetic study of cannabis abuse.

In addition to identifying areas of the genome that might be involved, the researchers also saw a bidirectional link between excess cannabisuse and schizophrenia, meaning that the two conditions may influence each other. This finding is intriguing, says Marta Di Forti, a scientific psychiatrist at King’s College London. Cannabis use “is the most preventable risk factor” for schizophrenia. Genetic data could be used in the future to identify and support people who are at increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders due to cannabis use.

Source: Nature.com (EN)



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