How marijuana use can change your gene

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Marijuana is becoming more popular and legal in various parts of the United States. According to recent data, about 18% of all Americans have tried it at least once. But what does marijuana use mean for our health? A new study from Northwestern Medicine provides some insights.

Marijuana Use in America

Marijuana is a mix of dried leaves from the plant Cannabis sativa. People consume it in different ways, such as smoking it in hand-rolled cigarettes called joints, using a water pipe called a bong, making marijuana tea, or mixing it into foods.

In 2019, nearly 48.2 million people in America used marijuana, which is about 18% of the population. These figures, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show that marijuana is the most used drug in the country.

Despite its popularity, scientists still don’t fully understand the health effects of marijuana. Some states have made it legal to use the drug, but what happens inside our bodies when we use marijuana? This question led scientists at Northwestern Medicine to conduct a study.

The Study on Marijuana

The study was led by Dr. Lifang Hou, a cancer research specialist. The researchers studied blood samples from over 900 adults, collected five years apart. All participants had been part of an earlier study on heart health.

The team asked each person about their recent use of marijuana and estimated how much marijuana each person had used over their lifetime. Then, they examined the DNA in the blood samples.

What Did They Find?

The researchers discovered changes in the DNA of people who used marijuana, specifically in a process called DNA methylation. DNA methylation involves small chemical groups attaching to our DNA, which can switch certain genes on or off.

The team found between 16 and 132 markers of DNA methylation linked to marijuana use. Many of these markers were in parts of the DNA associated with cell growth, hormone signaling, and infections.

They were also in areas linked to mental health problems, including conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and substance use disorders.

What Does It Mean?

The study doesn’t prove that marijuana causes these genetic changes or that these changes lead to health problems. However, it does show a link, which scientists will want to explore further. These findings could help guide future research into the effects of marijuana use.

More studies are needed to confirm these findings and see if they apply to different groups of people. It’s also important to study how marijuana use might affect our health as we age.

The Importance of Continued Research

This research gives us a better understanding of how marijuana use might affect our bodies, but there is still much we don’t know. As marijuana becomes more popular and legal, it’s important that we continue to study its effects to help people make informed decisions about its use.

For those interested in cannabis, there are studies available on various topics. For instance, some studies discuss what you need to know about cannabis and heart attacks, and how CBD from cannabis may help inhibit COVID-19 infection.

Other research has found that medical cannabis could help reduce depression and improve the quality of life, and certain components in cannabis may protect the aging brain and treat Alzheimer’s.

This particular study was published in Molecular Psychiatry, offering valuable insights into the genetic changes linked to marijuana use. As we learn more, we can better understand the potential health impacts and guide safer use of marijuana.

If you care about lung health, please read studies about marijuana’s effects on lung health, and why some non-smokers get lung disease and some heavy smokers do not.

For more information about health, please see recent studies that olive oil may help you live longer, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.

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