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Largest Genome Study to Date of Cannabis Use Disorder Reveals New Genetic Underpinnings

Scientists, leading an international study designed to understand the genetic variations and risk for a cannabis use disorder, have produced data suggesting “that cannabis use disorder is a serious psychiatric illness with genetic and neurobiological influences that diverge at least

partially from cannabis use.”

In other words, these researchers are indicating an overlap between biological factors that increase an individual’s risk for developing cannabis use disorder and those factors underlying a predisposition to first-time cannabis use, and although these biological factors may overlap, they note that a distinction exists among them.

With increased legalization and decriminalization throughout the country, cannabis use in the

United States has increased significantly in recent years, and so research has focused on the

negative impacts of cannabis use. The new genome-wide association study (or GWAS) analyzed “genome data of 20,196 individuals with cannabis use disorder and 363,116 controls.” It sought to determine the locations in the human genome where specific variations in DNA correlate with the liability for cannabis use disorder.

The researchers of the study estimate that “between 50% and 70% of an individual’s liability to cannabis use disorder is due to genetic factors," and they have identified two locations in the genome in which “specific single-letter DNA changes are statistically associated with cannabis use disorder.” Yet the researchers noted that there is a difference in the genetic influences that affect an individual’s likelihood of ever using marijuana and developing cannabis use disorder.

Furthermore, they found positive correlations at the genetic level between cannabis use disorder and psychiatric disorders, such as ADHD, major depression, and schizophrenia. You can read more about the study at the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.

You can find drug-related resources and help online at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline, or by calling 1-800-662-4357 (HELP).

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