For as long as humans have experimented with opium poppies, cannabis, or fermentation, addiction has been a public health concern. Thousands of years later, researchers have begun to uncover genetic answers to the central question of substance abuse: why do some people develop a strong dependency, while others drink or smoke casually? Scientists from Aarhus University in Denmark have identified a gene that can predict an increased risk for marijuana addiction: CHRNA2.
What is CHRNA2?
Addictionologists understand that addiction is a multifactorial condition. This means that a multitude of factors may combine to create the “perfect storm” required for ongoing substance abuse. Put simply, one’s environment, social circle, mental health, and genetic makeup all contribute to the likelihood that they will develop a condition like cannabis use disorder. However, until now, we have not known specifically which genes predispose us to addiction.
Danish researchers have identified a single variant of cholinergic receptor nicotinic α2 subunit (CHRNA2) that influences the risk of becoming addicted to cannabis. Through a large-scale study comparing the genomes of 50,000 non-addicted individuals with 2,000 who have a cannabis use disorder, scientists were able to understand the role of this CHRNA2 variant. After these findings were published in Nature Neuroscience, they were confirmed through the use of an Icelandic database of more than 300,000 volunteers.
Researchers believe that identifying the biological processes involved in addiction will advance the treatment of this disorder. As additional genetic components of substance abuse are identified, hope for even more comprehensive treatment grows.
If I Have This Genetic Variant, Will I Become Addicted to Marijuana?
Not necessarily. While these findings are an exciting step in the right direction, they do not signal that a single gene can cause addiction. Rather, CHRNA2 is the first building block in our understanding of the biological predisposition to marijuana addiction. It can help us to predict how a person will react to this substance, for example, but having this CHRNA2 variant alone does not mean that you will become dependent on cannabis.
Marijuana Addiction Explained
Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit substance worldwide, and many falsely believe that it is non-addictive in nature. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth.
Continued use of cannabis results in a psychological and physical dependency. Roughly 10% of those who regularly partake in this substance will deal with cravings and increased tolerance. They’ll also experience withdrawal symptoms like irritability, insomnia, headaches, brain fog, sweating, chills, depression, and gastrointestinal issues when they try to stop.
In addition to these physical effects, cannabis use disorder can seriously impact a person’s personal and professional life. At Providence Treatment, we have seen the ways in which high-achieving individuals – those with stable careers and solid relationships – have struggled to function under the influence of cannabis. They lose interest in activities, fail to manage their responsibilities, perform poorly at work, and become isolated from others.
Perhaps worst of all, they lose control of their substance use. While they may want to stop smoking or ingesting edibles, the combination of physical and psychological dependence can result in a cycle of obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of marijuana.
For these individuals, professional intervention may be warranted.
Comprehensive Treatment for Marijuana Addiction
Overcoming any type of drug addiction is more difficult on your own. If you are looking for an effective outpatient program for lasting recovery, Providence Treatment may be for you. Our Philadelphia and Honolulu addiction treatment centers provide evidence-based care, including:
Resolving underlying issues that drive marijuana use. People use marijuana for a variety of reasons – they may want to sleep, relax after a stressful day at the office, or alleviate symptoms of depression. Unfortunately, substance use only masks these problems; at times, it may even make them worse. The addiction specialists at Providence Treatment will work with you to identify and resolve the issues that have resulted in problematic marijuana use.
Putting the pieces back together. Clients also seek treatment for different reasons. No matter which concerns have alerted you to your substance use disorder, we are ready to help you transition back to your “real life.” As a facility that specializes in the treatment of professionals, we provide the motivation, coping skills, and goals you need to get back on track.
Customizing care to your needs. Finally, we understand that treatment is not one-size-fits-all. Our clinicians are trained in several effective modalities and will tailor programming to suit your needs. Individualized options include addiction evaluation, laboratory monitoring, trauma therapy, mindfulness training, behavioral therapy sessions, and ongoing support.
If you have developed a dependency on marijuana, help is available. Contact Providence Treatment to take the first step to recovery.