The genetic basis of the endocannabinoid system and drug addiction in humans

J Psychopharmacol. 2012 Jan;26(1):133-43. doi: 10.1177/0269881111416689. Epub 2011 Sep 21.


The cannabinoid receptor (CNR1) and the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) genes are located on chromosomes 6 and 1 in the 6q15 and 1p33 cytogenetic bands, respectively. CNR1 encodes a seven-transmembrane domain protein of 472 amino acids, whereas FAAH encodes one transmembrane domain of 579 amino acids. Several mutations found in these genes lead to altered mRNA stability and transcription rate or a reduction of the activity of the encoded protein. Increasing evidence shows that these functional mutations are related to dependence upon cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, heroin, nicotine and other drugs. One of the most compelling associations is with the C385A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), which is found in the FAAH gene. For all of the genetic polymorphisms reviewed here, it is difficult to form overall conclusions due to the high diversity of population samples being studied, ethnicity, the use of volunteers, heterogeneity of the recruitment criteria and the drug addiction phenotype studied. Care should be taken when generalizing the results from different studies. However, many works have repeatedly associated polymorphisms in the CNR1 and FAAH genes with drug-related behaviours; this suggests that these genes should be examined in further genetic studies focusing on drug addiction and other psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amidohydrolases / genetics
  • Animals
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / genetics*
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / genetics
  • Substance-Related Disorders / genetics*


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Amidohydrolases
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase