Does smoking pot give you the blues?

It may be in the genes

John Timmer

Does smoking pot give you the blues? It may be in the genes

There have been a number of controversial studies that have linked long-term marijuana use with various forms of mental illness (including at least one we’ve covered). However, the effects of short-term use have generally seemed to be pretty minor. But a new study of Dutch teens suggests that cannabis use might be associated with the onset of symptoms associated with depression—but only if the teens carried a specific genetic predisposition.

There are a number of reasons to treat this result skeptically. The numbers are small, there are a lot of potential confounding factors, the statistical analysis used is fairly uncommon, and the particular genetic variant has a long history of controversial associations with various behavioral traits. But the authors validated their work on a second population, which at least suggests the study is worth following up on.

The authors of the new study indicate there’s a history of research looking into the association between depressive behavior and the use of cannabis, but the record is very mixed. They then suggest a possible explanation for the confusion: cannabis can induce these symptoms, but only within those genetically predisposed to respond in that manner.

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