Genetic links in cannabis use disorders

Summary: Researchers analyzed more than a million genomes, revealing insights into cannabis use disorders and their links to psychiatric problems, other substance abuse, and lung cancer risks.

The study, part of the Million Veteran Program, identified genetic variants linked to cannabis use disorders and associated health and behavioral problems. This largest genome-wide study ever conducted on cannabis-related disorders provides insight into the public health risks in the context of increasing marijuana use.

The findings highlight the importance of understanding the genetic basis of cannabis-related disorders to inform public health policies.


  1. Researchers have identified numerous genetic variants associated with cannabis use disorders, linking them to other health and behavioral problems.
  2. The study suggests a potential link between cannabis use disorders and an elevated risk of lung cancer, although more research is needed.
  3. This comprehensive analysis is part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Million Veteran program, making it the largest study of its kind.

Source: Yale

A Yale-led analysis of the genomes of more than a million people has shed light on the underlying biology of cannabis use disorders and its links to psychiatric disorders, abuse of other substances such as tobacco and perhaps even a high risk of developing lung cancer. .

For the study, researchers examined a genome-wide set of genetic variants in individuals from multiple ancestry groups enrolled in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Million Veteran Program, one of the largest databases of genetic data in the world, and incorporated additional information from several other genomic databases. .

They were able to identify dozens of genetic variants linked to cannabis use disorders and various behavioral and health problems associated with cannabis use disorders.

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

“Once we understand the biology of cannabis use disorders, we will be able to better understand associated disorders and inform the public about the risks associated with marijuana use,” said Levey, lead author of the study.

Marijuana is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the United States, with more than 48 million people (18% of Americans) using it at least once in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the United States. Previous research has shown that approximately one-third of people who use marijuana develop cannabis use disorder, defined as a problematic pattern of cannabis use that results in clinically significant impairment or distress.

The new findings offer insight into the genetic factors that cause this and other potentially associated health risks.

For example, they found that variants of genes encoding three different types of receptors on neurons were associated with a high risk of developing cannabis use disorder.

And they found that these variants linked to cannabis use disorder were also associated with the development of lung cancer. The authors added, however, that more needs to be done to separate the effects of smoking and other environmental factors on cancer diagnoses from those of marijuana use.

“This is the largest genomic study of cannabis use disorder ever conducted, and as more states legalize or decriminalize marijuana use, such studies can help us understand the public health risks that accompany its increased consumption,” Gelernter said.

About this research news in genetics and addictions

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

Original research: Free access.
“A genome-wide multi-ascending association study of cannabis use disorder provides insight into disease biology and public health implications” by Daniel Levey et al. Natural genetics


Genome-wide, multi-ascendant association study of cannabis use disorder provides insight into disease biology and public health implications

While recreational use of cannabis is decriminalized in many places and medical use is widely sanctioned, there is growing concern about the increase in cannabis use disorder (CanUD), which are associated with numerous medical comorbidities.

Here, we performed a genome-wide association study of CanUD under the Million Veteran Program (MVP), followed by a meta-analysis in 1,054,365 individuals (notcase= 64,314) from four major ancestries designated by the reference panel used for the assignment (Europe not= 886,025, African not= 123,208, American mix not= 38,289 and East Asia not= 6,843). Population-specific methods were applied to calculate heritability based on single nucleotide polymorphism within each ancestry.

Statistically significant heritability based on single nucleotide polymorphism for CanUD was observed in all populations except the smallest (East Asia). We discovered genome-wide significant loci unique to each ancestry: 22 in Europe, 2 in Africa and 2 in East Asia, and 1 in admixed American ancestry.

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

Gn Health

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