New Study Links Cannabis Addiction to Genetic Markers

A new study has suggested that people with particular genetic markers may have a higher risk of becoming addicted to marijuana.

Researchers discovered a link between the symptoms of marijuana dependence and three genetic markers. Marijuana dependence is a condition whereby people are unable to stop using marijuana even though their continued use has interfered with their ability to live a normal and healthy life, including damaging relationships and jobs.

The study also showed that there was some overlap between the genetic risk factors of marijuana dependence and the genetic risk factors for depression, suggesting a potential reason the two conditions tend to occur at the same time in the same people.

This study is the first such study to identify specific genetic markers connected to marijuana dependence. However, it will take some more search to confirm the findings for sure and understand how the genetic factors could contribute to a marijuana dependency.

The investigators in the study hope that their findings will help to better understand the biology of marijuana dependence. Future research into marijuana dependence could also perhaps help to identify new targets for medication to treat the disorder. There are currently no recommend treatments for marijuana dependence, according to the National Institution on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The NIDA estimate that around 9% of all people who use marijuana will become dependent on it.

The study was co-authored by Dr Joel Galernter, who works as a professor of genetics, psychiatry, and neuroscience at Yale University School of Medicine in Connecticut. Gelernter worked with his colleagues to analyse information from over 14,000 Americans who joined one of three studies looking into the genetics behind substance-use disorders. Between 18 and 36% of the people in the studies had a marijuana dependence. The researchers checked for different genetic variations, known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that were connected to the symptoms of marijuana dependence.

The study showed three genetic variants connected to marijuana dependence symptoms. One such genetic variant was located in a gene that helps regulate calcium concentration in blood. Earlier studies have shown that calcium signaling in the body is important for other substance-use disorders, such as a dependence on opioids.

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