Using marijuana has become a widespread practice across the United States as more and more jurisdictions decriminalize and legalize the substance. As of the 2020 election, 43 states have taken steps to legalize marijuana in some form, whether it be for medical or recreational use. It’s common to see lines of cars at dispensaries or walk by someone smoking on the steps of their home. While using cannabis has become more socially accepted, many people still have concerns about the substance or questions about genetic marijuana use.
The impact of marijuana use on the user is the focus of much research, but scientists know less about how marijuana use impacts a person’s genetics and their children’s risk of substance abuse. Genetic marijuana use is an important area of research and one that could provide insight into treating and preventing substance abuse disorders.
How Genetics Influence Substance Abuse
When looking at the heritability of substance abuse, such as drug use or alcoholism, researchers take two factors into consideration: genetics and environment. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics highlighted that both of these factors contribute to addiction and that addiction is mildly to highly heritable.
One form of substance abuse, alcoholism, has been identified as having several genetic variables that can contribute to a person’s risk of developing an alcohol use disorder, or AUD. For example, the GABRA2 and CHRM2 genes have both been linked to alcohol dependency in some research. The correlation between CHRM2 and alcoholism is stronger in people who use or are addicted to other drugs, so dependency on other substances could have something to do with the gene’s influence on alcoholism.
Stronger research points to the genes that relate to the metabolism’s processing of alcohol, ADH1B and ALDH2, as being more closely related to a person’s chance of abusing alcohol.
Of course, while it’s apparent that genes play an intricate role in a person’s susceptibility to substance use disorders, an individual’s environment also has an impact on their drug use. One study reminds its audience that people with similar environments, exposures and risks often are the subject of heritability studies, so the data shows that heritability has the most impact on a person’s drug and alcohol choices under specific circumstances.
Research studies typically focus on family members who are closely related and from similar environments, so their genetic influences play an important role. Less is known about how genetics would influence a person’s alcoholism, for example, if they weren’t exposed to it at the same level as their family members.
What You Need to Know About Marijuana
Marijuana use can impact mental, physical and developmental health. Research indicates that marijuana users have an increased risk of developing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Marijuana contains many of the same carcinogens as tobacco, which can harm lung health and lead to increased phlegm production and coughing.
Women who use the substance while pregnant may harm the development of their unborn child, and teenagers who smoke weed could experience developmental problems as well. Besides physical and psychological problems, marijuana use can interfere with social obligations and responsibilities, like work and school.
The Research on Genetic Marijuana Use
It’s possible that substance use disorders, including cannabis use, are genetic. The peer-reviewed journal Addiction says that such disorders are “likely to be polygenic (i.e., to involve several genes of modest effect).”
While science can’t yet trace marijuana use to one specific gene, the peer-reviewed journal Translational Psychiatry published research that identified four genes that inclined a person toward lifetime genetic marijuana use.
A study conducted by a group of researchers at Washington University in St. Louis states that “approximately 50-70% of the variation in cannabis use and use disorders can be attributed to heritable factors.” There appears to be a strong relationship between cannabis use and a person’s genetics, with another significant influence being exerted by environmental factors.
The above study also theorized that environmental factors have the most influence over a person’s cannabis use when they’re young and genetic factors take a more prominent role as the person enters adulthood.
It’s possible for a person to negatively impact their own genetics through the use of substances like cannabis. For example, some research has indicated that cannabis could have epigenetic effects on fertility. Epigenetics refers to the altering of a gene during a person’s life because of practices or circumstances that affect their DNA. This budding field could shed light on the genetic impact of cannabis use and how it may affect the lives of users and possibly the genetics of their children.
This research could help doctors, substance abuse counselors and other professionals better understand the factors that contribute to cannabis use and abuse. Scientists also hope to use this information to destigmatize substance abuse and encourage impacted individuals to seek help freely.
When to Reach Out
Substance abuse can be a problem for anyone, whether they’re genetically disposed to it or not. It’s an isolating and solitary experience that often coexists with mental illnesses, but you don’t have to struggle through either alone. Reaching out to qualified professionals can help you cope with and overcome alcoholism or drug use. Even if you’re not abusing drugs, you may want to eliminate the hold they have over your life and health. You might choose to stop smoking to increase your productivity or because you want to find other ways to manage your stress after having turned to cannabis. Don’t wait until you feel overwhelmed to seek help. Acting preemptively might be the key to quitting once and for all.
No matter what your reason for quitting, the compassionate professionals at FHE Health are ready to help you regain control of your life. Whether you’re struggling with addiction or just looking to break away from genetic marijuana use, FHE’s mental health and substance abuse services can provide you with the comfort, advice and professional help you need to succeed. Contact us today at (833) 596-3502 to learn about your options.