New research from the national psychiatry project iPSYCH shows that a particular gene is associated with increased risk of cannabis abuse. The gene encodes a receptor in the brain, and people with less of this receptor are at greater risk of becoming cannabis users.
Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug both in Denmark and internationally, and about one in ten users becomes dependent on the drug. Now researchers from the Lundbeck Foundation's Integrated Research Initiative, in daily speech iPSYCH, have found a gene that they associate with abuse of cannabis.
"We found out that the disorder was associated with a genetic variant, a variant that affects how much a particular nicotine receptor is formed in the brain, ”explains Associate Professor Ditte Demontis from iPSYCH, who is behind the study.
The genetic variant scientists have found affects how much is formed by the particular nicotine receptor. People who have less of this receptor in the brain have larger onesrisk of becoming cannabis users.
Ditte Demontis and colleagues used a nationwide Danish cohort to analyze the entire genetic material from more than 2,000 cannabis users and the genetic material from 50,000 control persons. The researchers then repeated these findings in an analysis of another 5,500 cannabis abusers and more than 300,000 controls.
Increases the risk of abuse
The results have just been published in Nature Neuroscience.
The researchers also included genetic data from studies that examined the underlying genetics for the ability to take an education.
"People with cannabis abuse often do worse in the education system, and our results show that it can be partly explained by genetics. That is, people with an abuse have several genetic variants in the genome that increase the risk of cannabis abuse while affecting the ability to take an education in a negative direction, ”explains Ditte Demontis.
The study is the first of its kind in that magnitude and a step in understanding what biological mechanisms are behind the misuse of cannabis.
"We need to research even more in how the genetic differences in the genome contribute to the development of cannabis abuse and map out the exact biological mechanisms that cause someone to have a higher risk of becoming abusers than others. The hope is that in the longer term we can improve the treatment and maybe even prevent abuse, ”says Ditte Demontis.
provided by Aarhus University.