Cannabis risk gene opens door to better health advice

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A GENE which increases the risk of psychosis sevenfold in daily cannabis smokers has been identified by scientists.

The gene variant appears to double the risk in occasional smokers but increases it by 700 per cent in those who smoke daily, researchers at King’s College London found.

This could explain why some youngsters smoke the drug with no effects and others suffer catastrophic consequences, reports the journal Biological Psychiatry.

There is growing evidence that smoking cannabis as an adolescent can increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, and there is also an increase in the use of medical marijuana – exposing more people to the drug.

Scientists have been searching for a biological test which could predict the risk of cannabis-based psychosis and which would allow accurate advice to be given to users.

Now the researchers say they have carried out a case control study which appears to confirm evidence that a gene that codes for a protein called RAC-alpha serine/threonine-protein kinase (Akt1) could be a culprit.

Dr Marta Di Forti 
explained that “such findings could also help to design health educational campaigns tailored to reach those young people at particular risk”.