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Marijuana, Alcohol Addiction May Share Genes
Date:12/18/2009

But that doesn't predestine anyone to abuse either, researchers say,,

FRIDAY, Dec. 18 (HealthDay News) -- The genes that make people susceptible to alcoholism also make them prone to becoming addicted to marijuana, a new study suggests.

Researchers interviewed almost 6,300 men and women aged 24 to 36, including almost 2,800 sets of twins who were part of the Australian Twin Registry, about their use of alcohol and marijuana over their lifetime.

Twins are valuable to researchers in determining the role of genetics in various diseases or conditions because identical twins share 100 percent of their genes, while fraternal twins share 50 percent of their genes, the same as other siblings.

About 60 percent of the likelihood of becoming a heavy drinker, a frequent marijuana user or of becoming dependent on marijuana can be attributed to genes, according to the study, while about half of the likelihood of being an alcoholic can be traced to genetics.

"We know there is a high likelihood of alcohol addiction-related problems among people who smoke marijuana heavily and vice versa," said study author Carolyn E. Sartor, a research instructor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "What we found is that some of the same genetic influences that impact alcohol use and dependent symptoms also impact marijuana use and dependent symptoms."

Still, that means between 40 percent and 50 percent of the cause of alcohol or marijuana dependence may be due to environmental influences. Despite a genetic tendency, no one is predestined to abuse either substance, Sartor noted.

And even though a common set of genes appear to influence marijuana and alcohol addiction, there are also likely specific genes that influence addiction susceptibility to individual substances, Sartor added.

The study will be published in the upcoming March issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental
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