In a new study, scientists have identified a gene variant that is linked to an increased risk for mental impairment after marijuana use.
This may help explain why some marijuana users develop psychosis while others do not.
During psychosis, a person may experience personality changes and disordered thinking. Depending on its severity, this may include unusual or bizarre behavior, as well as having trouble with social interaction and problems with carrying out daily life activities.
The growing acceptance of medical and recreational marijuana means more people will be at risk for cannabis-induced psychosis, the researchers noted.
They also said there is growing evidence that marijuana use during the teen years may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, a serious psychotic disorder.
For the study, researchers focused on the AKT1 gene in more than 700 participants. This gene is involved in dopamine signaling, which is known to be abnormal in psychosis. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in mental health.
“We found that cannabis users who carry a particular variant in the AKT1 gene had a twofold increased probability of a psychotic disorder and this increased up to sevenfold if they used cannabis daily,” said Dr. Marta Di Forti, of King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry in England, and colleagues.
“Our findings help to explain why one cannabis user develops psychosis while his friends continue smoking without problems.”
The study results “could also help to design health educational campaigns tailored to reach those young people at particular risk,” Di Forti said in a journal news release.
Although identification of this gene variant will not lead to the development of a test to gauge a person’s risk for marijuana-related psychosis, it does reveal a genetic factor that could help lead to new treatments for the problem, said journal editor Dr. John Krystal in the news release.
The study is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
Source: Biological Psychiatry