Marijuana can cause surprising DNA changes

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Marijuana, a plant-based substance that’s commonly smoked or ingested, is gaining legal status and popularity across the United States.

Recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that about 18% of Americans have tried marijuana at least once, highlighting its position as the most commonly used drug in the country.

Despite its widespread use, the long-term health effects of marijuana are not fully understood, prompting scientists to investigate further.

A new study from Northwestern Medicine has taken a significant step in this direction by examining the genetic changes associated with marijuana use.

Led by Dr. Lifang Hou, a cancer research specialist, the research team analyzed blood samples from over 900 adults who were part of a previous heart health study. These samples, collected five years apart, provided a unique opportunity to observe changes over time.

Participants were asked about their recent and lifetime marijuana use, which allowed the researchers to correlate the levels of use with genetic data obtained from their DNA.

The study’s findings revealed notable changes in DNA methylation—a process where small chemical groups attach to DNA and can activate or deactivate genes. Researchers identified between 16 and 132 methylation markers related to marijuana use.

These markers were predominantly found in regions of the DNA associated with cell growth, hormone signaling, infection responses, and mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and substance use disorders.

While the study does not confirm that marijuana directly causes these genetic changes or leads to health problems, it establishes a clear association.

This discovery opens new avenues for research into how marijuana affects our bodies on a genetic level and could influence future studies aiming to understand the broader impacts of its use.

Given the ongoing legalization and increasing acceptance of marijuana, it is crucial to continue investigating its effects. This will help inform users and policymakers about potential health implications and ensure decisions about marijuana use are based on solid scientific evidence.

This research, published in Molecular Psychiatry, not only provides insights into the biological effects of marijuana but also underscores the need for further studies to explore its impact on health as individuals age.

As the dialogue around marijuana grows, so does the importance of understanding its long-term effects on our bodies.

If you care about cannabis, please read studies that what you need to know about cannabis and heart attack, and CBD from cannabis may help inhibit COVID-19 infection.

For more information about cannabis, please see recent studies that medical cannabis could help reduce depression, and results showing this stuff in cannabis may protect aging brain, treat Alzheimer’s.

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