Is Marijuana Use Linked to Your Genes?

Zahra Ali, Carmen Roland


Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States and refers to the dried parts of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, which are consumed to give mind-altering effects. Interestingly, the perception that marijuana is dangerous has decreased over time and this correlates with increased use among college-aged people with the prevalence of those reporting daily use rising from 3.5% in 2007 to 4.6% in 2015. Also, contrary to common belief, research suggests that thirty percent of users may develop addiction to cannabis. Therefore, with the current increase in legalization of the drug for medical and recreational purposes, it is essential to understand where the desire to use the drug may stem. While environment may prompt marijuana use, personality traits, that are in part heritable, also influence marijuana consumption. Novelty seeking (NS) is one personality trait that is associated with drug use. Indeed, higher NS scores are associated with drug use, and specifically, more frequent marijuana use. Moreover, there is a strong correlation between NS and a polymorphism in the promoter region of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR). The purpose of the current study is to discover whether correlations exist between NS, the 5-HTTLPR genotype, marijuana use, and estimations of the physical risk of using marijuana in college students. Results show that as novelty seeking scores increase, the frequency of marijuana use also increases (n= 199, r= 0.22, p<0.05). Also, we found that as the frequency of marijuana use increases, the assessment of the risk of use of marijuana decreases (n= 199, r= -0.39, p<0.001). Lastly, preliminary trends were found showing that individuals with the L/L genotype (n=13) use marijuana more often than individuals with the L/S genotype (n=18, p<0.05). At the time of submission, genotyping had not been completed so only preliminary results are discussed.


Marijuana; Novelty Seeking; 5-HTTLPR

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