GWAS of lifetime cannabis use reveals new risk loci, genetic overlap with psychiatric traits, and a causal influence of schizophrenia

23andMe Res Team, Subst Use Disorders Working Grp Ps, Int Cannabis Consortium, Joelle A. Pasman, Karin J. H. Verweij, Zachary Gerring, Sven Stringer, Sandra Sanchez-Roige, Jorien L. Treur, Abdel Abdellaoui, Michel G. Nivard, Bart M. L. Baselmans, Jue-Sheng Ong, Hill F. Ip, Matthijs D. van der Zee, Meike Bartels, Felix R. Day, Pierre Fontanillas, Sarah L. Elson, Harriet de WitLea K. Davis, James MacKillop, Jaime L. Derringer, Susan J. T. Branje, Catharina A. Hartman, Andrew C. Heath, Pol A. C. van Lier, Pamela A. F. Madden, Reedik Maegi, Wim Meeus, Grant W. Montgomery, A. J. Oldehinkel, Zdenka Pausova, Josep A. Ramos-Quiroga, Tomas Paus, Marta Ribases, Jaakko Kaprio, Marco P. M. Boks, Jordana T. Bell, Tim D. Spector, Joel Gelernter, Dorret I. Boomsma, Nicholas G. Martin, Stuart MacGregor, John R. B. Perry, Abraham A. Palmer, Danielle Posthuma, Marcus R. Munafo, Nathan A. Gillespie, Eske M. Derks, Jacqueline M. Vink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

131 Citations (Scopus)


Cannabis use is a heritable trait that has been associated with adverse mental health outcomes. In the largest genome-wide association study (GWAS) for lifetime cannabis use to date (N = 184,765), we identified eight genome-wide significant independent single nucleotide polymorphisms in six regions. All measured genetic variants combined explained 11% of the variance. Gene-based tests revealed 35 significant genes in 16 regions, and S-PrediXcan analyses showed that 21 genes had different expression levels for cannabis users versus nonusers. The strongest finding across the different analyses was CADM2, which has been associated with substance use and risk-taking. Significant genetic correlations were found with 14 of 25 tested sub-stance use and mental health-related traits, including smoking, alcohol use, schizophrenia and risk-taking. Mendelian randomization analysis showed evidence for a causal positive influence of schizophrenia risk on cannabis use. Overall, our study provides new insights into the etiology of cannabis use and its relation with mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1161-1170
Number of pages10
JournalNature neuroscience
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep-2018


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules/genetics
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation/genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse/genetics
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Risk-Taking
  • Schizophrenia/chemically induced
  • Young Adult

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