An examination of the genetic makeup of more than a million individuals, spearheaded by researchers at Yale, has provided valuable insights into the biological foundations of marijuana use disorder and how it relates to mental health issues, substance misuse (including tobacco) and potentially even a higher risk of lung cancer.
The study examined the genomes of participants from a range of ancestry groups, utilizing information from many genomic databases in addition to the extensive genetic data bank of the United States Veterans Affairs’ Million Veteran Program (MVP).The analysis revealed many genetic variations connected to marijuana use disorder, providing insight into a range of behavioral and physical problems related to the condition.
The study, published in the “Nature Genetics Journal” this month, was led by Daniel Levy, an assistant professor of psychiatry, and Joel Gelernter, a professor at the Foundations Fund of Psychiatry and Genetics and Neuroscience.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million individuals, or 18% of the American population, used cannabis at least once in 2019, making cannabis the most widely used federally illegal substance in the country. Previous research indicates that roughly 10% of cannabis users develop an addiction, while three out of ten users have a marijuana use disorder, which is defined as an unfavorable pattern of use that results in clinical impairment or suffering. Furthermore, another study found that those who began using marijuana throughout childhood or adolescence and who use it more regularly have a higher chance of developing the disorder.
The newly unveiled genetic findings provide nuanced views into the underpinnings of this phenomenon and its potential ramifications on health. Notably, certain genetic variants associated with marijuana use disorder were identified in genes responsible for encoding three distinct types of neuron receptors, indicating an elevated risk of developing this disorder.
Intriguingly, there was a correlation found between these same genetic variations and an elevated risk of lung cancer. The researchers, however, underscore the necessity for further investigation to disentangle the influences of tobacco smoking and other factors on cancer diagnosis from those associated with cannabis use.
Joel Gelernter emphasized the significance of this study, labeling it the most extensive genome-wide exploration of marijuana use disorder to date. He also noted that as cannabis legalization and decriminalization efforts gain momentum across states, studies of this nature are instrumental in comprehending the accompanying health risks.
This study helps to clarify that individuals who develop cannabis use disorder often have a genetic predisposition to this condition. For that reason, most members of the general population can safely use marijuana products from any of the many companies such as Curaleaf Holdings Inc. (CSE: CURA) (OTCQX: CURLF) for recreational or medical reasons without having a high risk of developing CUD.
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