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Genomic research links cannabis consumption to the risk of developing associated disorders

A reseach led by Yale, analyzing the genomes of over 1 million individuals, has provided relevant information on the biological basis of cannabis use disorder. This analysis has revealed connections between this disorder and psychiatric conditions, the abusive use of other substances such as tobacco, and potentially an increased risk of lung cancer.


Widespread cannabis consumption is a global reality, with this substance being the third most used worldwide. Despite being socially considered a drug of low danger, its impact on people's lives can be significant, even for those who do not consume it regularly. In fact, approximately one-third of cannabis users can develop a use disorder, leading to a problematic pattern resulting in discomfort or clinical deterioration.


In the year 2020 in Spain, approximately 7.2% of the population between 15 and 65 years old consumed cannabis.
In the year 2020 in Spain, approximately 7.2% of the population between 15 and 65 years old consumed cannabis.

While in countries like Spain recreational cannabis use remains prohibited, nations like Thailand or Malta are starting its legalization. This regulatory change has increased the relevance of understanding the factors influencing the development of disorders associated with cannabis consumption. In this context, a team of researchers from Yale University has examined over a million genetic profiles to identify the genome's influence on these disorders and their relationship with other traits.


 

Genetic association research with cannabis use disorder


The researchers conducted a large-scale research to better understand how genes impact the development of cannabis use disorder. Collectively, the team analyzed the genomes of over a million individuals from various consortia and projects, including 886,025 of European ancestry, 123,208 of African origin, 38,289 Americans, and 6,843 Asians.


By comparing the genes of individuals with cannabis use issues to those without this problem, they identified 22 areas of DNA associated with this disorder in individuals of European ancestry. They also found similar regions in other populations. In proximity to these areas, they identified genes such as CHRNA2, LAMB2, PDE4B, or MAGI, which could potentially play a role in this disorder, although further studies are needed to confirm this.


"Once we understand the biology of cannabis use disorder, we will be better equipped to comprehend associated disorders and inform the public about the risks associated with marijuana consumption," stated Levey, the research's lead author.

What's interesting is that many of these genetic areas are new, possibly due to the large number of individuals analyzed in this research, which is the largest one conducted thus far on how genes are related to cannabis consumption.


 

Could they be related to other disorders?


In addition to discovering the genetic areas linked to cannabis use disorder, the researchers explored whether some of these regions could be shared with other psychiatric problems or related to the use of different substances.

The disorder caused by cannabis consumption is associated with illnesses such as schizophrenia and lung cancer.
The disorder caused by cannabis consumption is associated with illnesses such as schizophrenia and lung cancer.

In this regard, the team observed similarities between the genetic factors associated with cannabis use disorder and schizophrenia. They also identified a relationship with various psychological manifestations, such as other substance abuse disorders. Additionally, they found a connection between cannabis consumption and the development of lung cancer, an association that will need further investigation.


"This is the largest genome research on cannabis use disorder ever conducted, and as more states legalize or decriminalize marijuana use, such studies can help us understand the public health risks associated with its increased usage," stated Gelernter.

In summary, the research on cannabis use disorder, analyzing the genomes of over a million individuals, has revealed significant genetic links to this disorder, as well as connections to psychiatric conditions, the abuse of other substances, and possibly the risk of lung cancer. These findings underscore the importance of better understanding the biological basis of this disorder to inform the public about the risks associated with marijuana consumption, especially in a context of legal changes surrounding its use.



Written by Irene Rodríguez

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