For years, cannabis users have been warned about the serious, long-term mental health risks of excessive consumption. Paranoia, anxiety, memory loss and depression are just a few symptoms commonly associated with overindulgence of herb. A new study shows there might be even more reason to ingest in moderation; a heightened risk of cannabis-induced psychosis has been found in users with the AKT1 genotype.
Researchers have always known the buzzed brain was more susceptible to illness, daily users are twice as likely to develop psychotic disorders, but it was difficult to distinguish who was more at risk. With the results from this groundbreaking study, scientists have the potential to be able to establish a person’s likelihood of developing psychosis, due to cannabis use, based on the presence of one varied gene.
New methods of psychosis research
Scientists from the University of Exeter and University College London conducted the study, hoping to understand a deeper connection between cannabis use, the treatment of psychosis and the presence of the AKT1 gene.
In the past, studies of this kind used patients already suffering from psychosis. For the first time in history, only healthy, young individuals carrying the varied AKT1 gene were selected. Researchers monitored 442 users, while sober and high, measuring the severity of the symptoms of intoxication and memory loss.
By choosing only healthy participants, the results were able to show a clear connection between the presence of the varied AKT1 gene and marijuana use; there would be no risk of other medical factors affecting the results. In addition to health, age was also considered when choosing participants. Young people were used in the study to ensure even less risk of unknown mental or physical abnormalities.
The study proved people carrying the gene, who are otherwise healthy, are much more likely to experience hallucinations, paranoia, visual distortions and other psychotic-like symptoms while high.
Professor Morgan, researcher from the University of Exeter, said: “Putting yourself repeatedly in a psychotic or paranoid state might be one reason why these people could go on to develop psychosis when they might not have done otherwise. 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.”
According to the study, carriers of the AKT1 gene, who constantly alter their mind with marijuana, make the brain feel out of control and anxious on a genetic level, leading to a heightened risk of developing psychosis.
The study also found that women are more likely to experience short-term memory loss than men.
The AKT1 gene and varied mutations are also associated with Proteus syndrome (think Elephant Man), certain kinds of cancer and other nervous system developmental issues. Due to the heightened health risks chances are, if you had it, you would already know.
Do you know anyone who carries the AKT1 gene or who suffers from cannabis-induced psychosis? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.