Genomic analysis uncovers gene variants linked to cannabis use disorder, other ailments

New Delhi: A genomic analysis of more than one million people in the US has found dozens of genetic variants associated with a heightened risk of developing cannabis use disorder.

These genetic variants were also associated with a range of behavioral and health issues arising from the disorder, including developing lung cancer, the study led by Yale University found.

Previous studies have shown that roughly one-third of people using cannabis, or marijuana, develop cannabis use disorder, defined as a problematic pattern of cannabis use leading to clinically significant health impairment or distress. Cannabis consists of the dried leaves of the hemp plant and is smoked or chewed for euphoric effect.

The study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, offers insights into the genetic factors that underlie this phenomenon, and other potentially related health risks, the researchers said.

“This is the largest genome-wide study of cannabis use disorder ever conducted and as more (US) states legalize or decriminalize the use of marijuana, such studies can help us to understand the public health risks that accompany its increased use,” said Joel Gelernter, professor of psychiatry, genetics and neuroscience.

For the study, the researchers analyzed genomics data of individuals from varied ancestry groups enrolled in the US Department of Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program, one of the world’s largest genetic databases.

They also incorporated additional information from several other genomic databases, they said in their study.

“Once we understand the biology of cannabis use disorder, we can better understand associated disorders and inform the public of risks associated with marijuana use,” said Daniel Levey, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychiatry.

However, the researchers said that more work needs to be done to separate the effects tobacco use and other environmental factors have on cancer diagnoses from those of marijuana use.