Can the Effects of Cannabis be influenced by a Person’s Genes?

Potency, strain, and type of consumption are all significant factors that play a part in the way in which the effects of smoking cannabis affect each individual person. However, each individual has their own set of variables such as age, frequency of consumption, gender, and percentage of body fat just to name a few. If you’ve spent time smoking cannabis with friends you’ve probably noticed a broad variety of responses to it, even though everyone is smoking the same strain.

For example, some may burst into laughter while others may start daydreaming. Some may become anxious or paranoid while others become “couch potatoes.” In any event, researchers have actually been curious and have conducted research into why people respond differently. So, it begs the question “Can the effects of cannabis be influenced by a person’s genes?” One of several things they’ve learned is that a person’s genes may play a significant role in the way that smoking cannabis affects us.

Cannabis and Neurotransmitters

In 2019, Canada’s University of Western Ontario researchers conducted a study that focused on how smoking cannabis can have such diverse effects on people. The study was conducted on rodents and enabled researchers to identify specific regions of the brain that could produce either negative or positive effects on the person. Researchers found that when rats are exposed to THC, it produced rewarding effects in the frontal lobe.

The frontal lobe plays a key role in the pleasure and reward circuit of the brain through neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine plays a significant role in arousal, executive function, motivation, and reward while serotonin helps to produce feelings of well-being and happiness while stabilizing a person’s moods. This region of the brain enables animals and humans to identify the presence of a threat and react to it.

Another essential aspect of cannabis intoxication is the reward circuitry in the brain. That part of the brain affects the memory and emotions, producing pleasurable sensations which leads to intake of cannabis to get that high again.

Genetic Variables

Although people with argue the point that addiction to cannabis is non-existent, a variation on the gene known as CHRNA2 can elevate the risk of becoming addicted or dependent on cannabis at the very least. However, trying to define “cannabis addiction” can be somewhat tricky. This is because studies on substance abuse often confuse addiction with dependency.

Another genetic variable occurs with the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in your body and the variations of them that oftentimes occur. These are considered genetic mutations that can alter the body’s responses to cannabis and other substances and dramatically impact one’s health.


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