The Connection Between Genetics and Cannabis Use Disorder: Exploring the Genetic Links

Summary: Analysis of over one million genomes has uncovered crucial insights into cannabis use disorder (CanUD) and its connection to psychiatric issues, other substance abuse problems, and the increased risk of lung cancer.

The extensive study, part of the Million Veteran Program, identified numerous genetic variants associated with CanUD, providing valuable information on the potential health hazards of escalating marijuana use.

These findings emphasize the significance of understanding the genetic foundation of CanUD to guide public health policies and preventive measures.

Key Facts:

  1. Researchers identified multiple genetic variants linked to CanUD, indicating its association with various health and behavioral concerns.
  2. The study suggests a conceivable link between CanUD and an increased risk of developing lung cancer, although additional research is necessary.
  3. This comprehensive analysis is part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Million Veteran Program, marking it as the largest study of its kind.

Source: Yale

A Yale-led analysis of over one million people’s genomes has illuminated the underlying biology of cannabis use disorder and its intertwined psychiatric disorders, potential tobacco abuse, and maybe even an elevated risk of lung cancer.

For this study, investigators delved into a comprehensive genome-wide set of genetic variants among individuals from varied ancestry groups involved in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Million Veteran Program, one of the world’s most extensive genetic databases, and integrated additional data from several other genomic databases.

They successfully pinpointed numerous genetic variants linked to CanUD and a range of behavioral and health issues tied to its occurrence.

The research, led by Daniel Levey, assistant professor of psychiatry, and Joel Gelernter, the Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry and professor of genetics and neuroscience, was published on Nov. 20 in the journal Nature Genetics.

“Once we comprehend the biology of cannabis use disorder, we can gain better insight into related disorders and alert the public about the hazards linked to marijuana use,” said Levey, the lead author of the study.

The new findings provide insights into the genetic factors underpinning this condition and other possibly associated health risks.

For instance, the authors discovered that variants of genes encoding three types of neuron receptors were linked to an elevated risk for developing CanUD.

Further, these CanUD-linked variants were also associated with an increased likelihood of developing lung cancer. However, the authors highlighted the need for more research to separate the effects of tobacco use and other environmental factors on cancer diagnoses when compared to those of marijuana use.

“This is the most extensive genome-wide study of cannabis use disorder to date. As more states legalize or decriminalize marijuana use, such studies can help us appreciate the public health risks that accompany its amplified use,” Gelernter stated.

About this genetics and addiction research news

Author: Bess Connolly
Source: Yale
Contact: Bess Connolly – Yale
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
Multi-ancestry genome-wide association study of cannabis use disorder yields insight into disease biology and public health implications” by Daniel Levey et al. Nature Genetics


Multi-ancestry genome-wide association study of cannabis use disorder yields insight into disease biology and public health implications

As recreational use of cannabis is being decriminalized in many places and medical use widely sanctioned, there are growing concerns about increases in cannabis use disorder (CanUD), which is associated with numerous medical comorbidities.

Here we performed a genome-wide association study of CanUD in the Million Veteran Program (MVP), followed by meta-analysis in 1,054,365 individuals (ncases = 64,314) from four broad ancestries designated by the reference panel used for assignment (European n = 886,025, African n = 123,208, admixed American n = 38,289 and East Asian n = 6,843). Population-specific methods were applied to calculate single nucleotide polymorphism-based heritability within each ancestry.

Statistically significant single nucleotide polymorphism-based heritability for CanUD was observed in all but the smallest population (East Asian). We discovered genome-wide significant loci unique to each ancestry: 22 in European, 2 each in African and East Asian, and 1 in admixed American ancestries.

A genetically informed causal relationship analysis indicated a possible effect of genetic liability for CanUD on lung cancer risk, suggesting potential unanticipated future medical and psychiatric public health consequences that require further study to disentangle from other known risk factors such as cigarette smoking.


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