Could some people possess a gene that makes them more likely than others to develop a fondness for cannabis? Perhaps, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
The study, which attempts to draw new conclusions by surveying previous studies and combining that information with new data, presents a hazy picture, at best. The scientific community is skeptical the results are reproducible — which isn’t a bad thing, since the researchers’ conclusions are not exactly positive. According to them, gene expressions found in cannabis users but not in non-users showed “significant genetic correlations … [with] substance use and mental health–related traits, including smoking, alcohol use, schizophrenia and risk-taking.”
The research was performed by representatives of 23andMe, a genomics and biotechnology company that offers a deep look at their genetic makeup, and members of the International Cannabis Consortium. Drawing on 23andMe’s database and other public sources, the team scanned the entire genome looking for traits that could provide insight into cannabis use. Overall, they were able to analyze the genetic information of approximately 185,000 individuals, making this study the largest of its kind.
Researchers found eight regions of the human genome containing a total of 35 individual genes may correlate with cannabis use. The strongest link was found at CADM2.
“CADM2 has already been associated with risky behavior, personality and alcohol use,” Jacqueline Vink of Radboud University, the study’s lead author said, according to 23andMe.
The study identified different genes than previous research, highlighting the need for additional research. As ARS Technica pointed out, difficulty in replicating study results may indicate that a strong social component to cannabis use as opposed to a genetic one.
The study authors suggested “environments more often experienced by those with backgrounds of higher social economic status, such as universities,” may increase the chances of an individual using cannabis.
The study also examined the supposed link between cannabis use and schizophrenia. While heavy cannabis use has been linked to schizophrenia, it is unclear if using weed actually induces the disease. The study authors indicated they believe it is highly unlikely cannabis use induces schizophrenia, saying any links between the two likely would fade with a larger pool of data.