Scientists have recently identified a gene that links mental impairment to marijuana use.
The new research may explain why some marijuana users develop psychosis, while others do not. During marijuana-induced psychosis, a person may experience “personality changes” and “disordered thinking,” such as bizarre behavior, trouble with social interactions, or difficulty carrying out daily activities.
Now that the medical and recreational use of marijuana is more widely accepted, more people will be exposed to the risk of cannabis-induced psychosis, researchers noted.
Growing evidence indicates that marijuana use during teen years especially increases the risk of developing schizophrenia, a serious psychotic disorder.
In the recent study, researchers studied the AKT1 gene in more than 700 participants. Researchers noted that the gene is involved in dopamine signaling, which is known to be an abnormal indicator of psychosis. Dopamine plays a vital role in mental health, researchers noted.
“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.”
In a news release, Di Forit also noted that the study findings could help “design health educational campaigns tailored to reach those young people at particular risk.”
No tests will be developed to test a person to see if they have this gene variant, researchers noted, meaning that people cannot be tested for their personal risk of marijuana-related psychosis. However, it does reveal a genetic factor that could help “lead to new treatments for the problem,” said Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry, which published the study findings.