A groundbreaking genetic analysis led by researchers at Yale University has provided valuable insights into the underlying biology of cannabis use disorder and its connections to psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and potential lung cancer risk. The study, which analyzed the genomes of over 1 million individuals from various ancestry groups, utilized the extensive dataset of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Million Veteran Program and incorporated data from other genomic databases. Published in the journal Nature Genetics, the findings shed light on the genetic variants associated with cannabis use disorder and its associated health and behavioral issues.
By identifying numerous genetic variants linked to cannabis use disorder, the study’s lead author, Daniel Levey, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale, emphasized the importance of understanding the biology behind the disorder. The newfound knowledge enables a deeper understanding of related disorders and allows for better risk communication to the public concerning marijuana use.
Marijuana remains the most widely used federally illegal drug in the United States, with statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that 18% of Americans, equivalent to over 48 million people, used marijuana at least once in 2019. Of those users, approximately one-third developed cannabis use disorder, which refers to the problematic pattern of cannabis use resulting in significant impairment or distress.
The study’s findings revealed interesting connections between genetic factors and cannabis use disorder. For instance, the researchers observed that variants of genes responsible for encoding three types of receptors on neurons were associated with an elevated risk of developing cannabis use disorder. Moreover, these variants were also linked to an increased likelihood of developing lung cancer. However, the researchers caution that further investigations are necessary to discern the independent effects of marijuana use from those of tobacco use and other environmental factors when it comes to cancer diagnoses.
As marijuana continues to gain legal and decriminalization status in numerous states, studies of this nature hold essential public health implications. Joel Gelernter, the Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry and professor of genetics and neuroscience at Yale, notes the significance of conducting large-scale genome-wide studies to comprehend the risks associated with increased marijuana use. With the ever-changing landscape of marijuana legislation, this investigation serves as a pivotal step toward informing individuals and society about the potential hazards associated with cannabis use.
What is cannabis use disorder?
Cannabis use disorder refers to a problematic pattern of cannabis use that leads to significant impairment or distress. It is characterized by an individual’s inability to control or stop their cannabis use despite negative consequences.
How common is marijuana use in the United States?
Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 18% of Americans, over 48 million people, used marijuana at least once in 2019.
What are the health risks associated with cannabis use disorder?
Cannabis use disorder has been found to have connections to various health risks, including psychiatric disorders, the abuse of other substances like tobacco, and a potential elevated risk of developing lung cancer. However, further research is needed to fully understand the complexities and distinguish the effects of marijuana use from other environmental factors.
How can genetic studies help in understanding cannabis use disorder?
Genetic studies, such as the Yale-led analysis, provide valuable insights into the genetic variants associated with cannabis use disorder. By understanding the biology of the disorder, researchers can gain a deeper understanding of related health risks and inform individuals and the public about the potential dangers associated with marijuana use.