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

Nat Neurosci. 2018 Sep;21(9):1161-1170. doi: 10.1038/s41593-018-0206-1. Epub 2018 Aug 27.


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 substance 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 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*
  • Marijuana Abuse / psychology*
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Risk-Taking
  • Schizophrenia / chemically induced*
  • Schizophrenia / genetics*
  • Young Adult


  • CADM2 protein, human
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules