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Scientists Isolate the “Paranoia Gene” in Cannabis Smokers

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Scientists have isolated AKT1, the genotype responsible for causing paranoia and stronger effects associated with cannabis use. Their hope is that this discovery can help lessen or eliminate some of the unwanted side effects related to cannabis consumption.

“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. To find that having this gene variant means that you are more prone to mind-altering affects of cannabis when you don’t have psychosis gives us a clue as to how it increases risk in healthy people,” wrote researcher Celia Morgan Ph.D. The genotype findings were published February 16, 2016, in Translational Psychiatry.

442 healthy young cannabis users were included in the study which compared the effects of cannabis, and the likelihood of a psychotic response. Users with a high prevalence of the genotype AKT1 were more likely to have strong, and/or negative side effects from smoking cannabis.

Unrelated studies have shown that THC modifies neural communication with the amygdala, which controls emotional processing. That in turn, can either make you more or less paranoid, depending on what kind of person you are. While only one percent of cannabis smokers develop psychosis, some researchers lump paranoia and psychosis together. Psychosis is a serious mental disorder characterized by thinking and emotions that are so impaired, that they indicate that the person experiencing them has lost contact with reality, and although there have been some cases where temporary symptoms of psychosis has been notes by heavy and prolonged use of stimulants like methamphetamine, LSD and cocaine, permanent psychosis is not caused by cannabis consumption. Furthermore, it is quite a stretch to compare paranoia with full psychosis.

“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,” wrote Morgan. “This research could help pave the way towards the prevention and treatment of cannabis psychosis.” Although the claims of this doctor are very intense, the researchers’ hearts were in the right place, and their research and findings will definitely benefit the larger medical cannabis research community.

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