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Gene shows psychosis risk from cannabis

Wednesday February 17th, 2016

A gene has been identified that may predict which individuals would be most at risk of developing psychosis if they smoked cannabis.

Professor Celia Morgan of Exeter University, UK, and her team examined the gene AKT1, as previous research has linked it to susceptibility to psychosis. They carried out tests on 442 young cannabis users to measure the symptoms of intoxication and memory loss. Results were compared against findings taken when the participants were drug free.

This indicated that young people with a specific variation in this gene experienced visual distortions, paranoia and other psychotic-like symptoms more strongly during exposure to cannabis.

They reported in Translational Psychiatry yesterday (16 February) that this is the first evidence of a link between AKT1 and the effects of smoked cannabis in healthy people. The team suggests that their discovery could aid the development of genotype targeted medication. They also found that women may be more susceptible to cannabis-associated short term memory loss.

"These findings are the first to demonstrate that people with this AKT1 genotype are far more likely to experience strong effects from smoking cannabis, even if they are otherwise healthy," said Professor Morgan. "Although cannabis-induced psychosis is very rare, when it happens it can have a terrible impact on the lives of young people. This research could help pave the way towards the prevention and treatment of cannabis psychosis."

She added: "Animal studies have found that males have more of the receptors that cannabis works on in parts of the brain important in short term memory, such as the prefrontal cortex."

Morgan, C. J. A. et al. AKT1 genotype moderates the acute psychotomimetic effects of a naturalistically smoked cannabis in young cannabis smokers. Translational Psychiatry 16 February 2016

Tags: Alternative Therapy | Genetics | Mental Health | UK News

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