Article by Jacqueline Howard, The Huffington Post
We’ve long known that pot can affect different people in various ways — some smokers only experience a slight “buzz” while others can become paranoid or even hallucinate.
Now, a team of researchers in the U.K. has found a way to identify which cannabis users are more at risk of developing such strong reactions.
A variation of the gene called “AKT1“ is linked to people being more susceptible to the mind-altering effects of cannabis than otherwise, according to a provocative new study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry on Tuesday.
While some previous studies suggest only around 1-5 percent of cannabis usersend up developing psychosis, it’s the AKT1 gene variant that may put those users more at risk, study lead author Dr. Celia Morgan, professor of psychopharmacology at England’s University of Exeter, told The Huffington Post.
“We know relatively little about what makes certain people vulnerable to developing psychosis from smoking cannabis but this research suggests one piece in the puzzle might be this genetic difference,” she said. “Cannabis and its extracts are being increasingly recognized for their medical uses so this is another reason why it is key to keep trying to find ways of predicting who will experience negative effects from its use.”
For the study, the researchers tested 442 marijuana users for psychotic-like symptoms while they were high and then again about a week later when they were sober. The researchers measured the extent of the symptoms and effects on memory loss and compared results.
They found that the study participants with a certain variant of the AKT1 gene had a much stronger reaction to cannabis — including symptoms like paranoia, magical thinking and visual distortions — than their counterparts.