Danish researchers have for the first time identified a gene that increases the risk for cannabis use disorder.
About 10 percent of people who ingest cannabis, the most commonly used illicit substance in the world, suffer cravings and withdrawals when they try to stop their habit. All substance abuse is the result of a combination of environmental and genetic factors, but until now, none of those genetic factors had been identified.
The Danish researchers identified a single variant of the gene CHRNA2 (cholinergic receptor nicotinic α2 subunit), which affects the risk of becoming addicted to cannabis. The gene was identified by comparing the genomes of more than 2,000 people with the disorder against nearly 50,000 who do not have the condition.
The gene doesn’t make someone a pot smoker, but it can increase the risk of addiction for those who try cannabis, says Ditte Demontis, an associate professor at Aarhus University in Denmark, who led the work.
Demontis says she hopes that identifying genes involved will eventually lead to a better understanding of the biological mechanisms behind the disorder as well as a treatment for it.
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