Largest ever independent study into cannabis use

Cannabis plants
Image caption,

Cannabis plants are grown around the world for medicine

  • Published

A £2.5 million study into the effects of cannabis on the brain has been launched by a London university.

The Cannabis & Me study will research environmental and biological factors behind the different effects people experience when using cannabis.

King's College London want 6,000 people to take part in the investigation, which would be the largest independent study of its kind.

Researchers said the funding from the Medical Research Council would help develop greater understanding of the drug, estimated to be used by 200 million people across the world.

Image caption,

Dr Marta di Forti wants to investigate genetic interactions with the drug

More research is needed about how the drug interacts with the brain so doctors can be more confident when considering prescribing medical cannabis, said lead researcher, Dr Di Forti.

“Cannabis is consumed daily by many recreationally but also for medicinal reasons," she said.

"But in the UK, the prescription of medicinal cannabis remains rare.

"Our study aims to provide data and tools that can make physicians in the UK and across the world more confident, where appropriate, in prescribing cannabis safely.”

The aim is to understand the link between a user’s biological makeup and the effect cannabis has on them.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,

Production of cannabis-infused medicine at the Government Pharmaceutical Organization in Thailand

Researchers will use a combination of virtual reality, psychological and cognitive analysis, and DNA testing.

They will also look at epigenetics in participants, which is how behaviour and environment can impact the way genes work.

Dr Di Forti said she was particularly interested in uncovering any markers connected to potential problems in users, for example mental health or social problems.

The team is now looking for participants between the ages of 18-45 living in the London area, who are either currently using cannabis or have used it less than three times or never before.

The first step for participants is filling out a 40-minute survey online, external.

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