The “Stoner” Gene
Cannabis actually could cause “reefer madness,” but only for marijuana users who have a particular genetic makeup. Researchers have just announced that they’ve discovered a gene that might predict a person’s risk of adverse mental health consequences due to smoking marijuana. A single gene, named “AKT1”, can show how sensitive a person is to developing psychosis after using cannabis.
The discovery will help doctors and scientists identify individuals at most risk from developing serious mental health implications from using the plant.
In other words, a gene can predict how much at risk a person is too negative mind-altering effects of smoking marijuana, according to a press release issued by researchers at the University of Exeter.
Although an extremely rare side-effect of marijuana use, psychosis due to cannabis ingestion is a real thing. Figures from the report suggest only around 1 per cent of cannabis users develop psychosis. While low in number, the impact can be devastating and long lasting.
Now, however, researchers are gaining a better understanding of the underlying causes or cannabis caused psychosis.
Test subjects with the tell-tale variation in the AKT1 gene experienced “visual distortions, paranoia, and other psychotic-like symptoms” more strongly than subjects without the gene. These experiences were either not present at all or much milder in marijuana users without the AKT1 variation.
Professor Celia Morgan, professor of psychopharmacology at the University of Exeter, said, “These findings are the first to demonstrate that people with this AKT1 genotype are far more likely to experience substantial effects from smoking cannabis, even if they are otherwise healthy.”
The research also found women were more vulnerable than men to lapses in short-term memory after smoking cannabis.
Professor Val Curran, professor of psychopharmacology at UCL, described the study as “the largest ever to be conducted in the acute response to marijuana.”
“Our finding that psychotic-like symptoms when young people are “stoned” are predicted by AKT1 variants is an exciting breakthrough.”