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Over the last fifteen years, the debate over the state of cannabis smoking (Cannabis-sativa), or marijuana, have gained momentum around the world as the movement to legalize their possession and use has accelerated. Certainly, the damage of cannabis is known, but researchers have recently found a link between its consumption and a rapid advance in the epigenetic age of our body, which may diverge from the actual chronological age.
In the United States, 46% of people report using cannabis in their lifetime, 18% report using cannabis over the past year, and among adults between the ages of 18 and 25, annual consumption increases at 35.4%. In fact, 6% of 13- to 14-year-olds, 17% of 15- to 16-year-olds, and 21% of 12-year-olds reported using cannabis the previous month, according to data from the National Institute on Child Abuse. Drugs. Cannabis is the third most widely used psychoactive substance, after alcohol and tobacco. Every year, 200 million people, or 4% of the world’s population, use cannabis. The decriminalization of cannabis causes 7% of high school students to vape cannabis-related compounds.
Thus, as cannabis use becomes legal and commonplace in more and more places, it is essential to increase understanding of its potential long-term physical effects. To date, the evidence on the negative effects of cannabis use on physical health is inconsistent. On the one hand, studies have implicated cannabis use in a number of physical and mental deficiencies, such as bronchitis, emphysema, immune function, oral health problems, depression, and psychosis. On the other hand, several long-term studies have found no association with cardiovascular risk or overall mortality. The biggest limitation of this type of study is the long period before the onset of health problems potentially linked to cannabis use.
However, the advent of epigenetic studies since the 1990s seems to have been able to counteract these obstacles. In fact, recent advances have now made it possible to assess DNA methylation markers in relation to future physical deterioration. Simply put, these are chemical changes that occur to regulate gene expression, without altering the DNA sequence. Groups called “methyl” are placed in DNA, which changes the way the cell reads the genome. DNA methylation deactivates genes in a stable but potentially reversible manner. Then we talk about epigenetic marks. The latter allow us to study how external factors, such as behavior and the environment, can cause changes in the functioning of our genes. These markers can be tracked long before any real disease appears. Researchers have recently shown that regular cannabis smokers would be exposed to an additional risk: seeing their body age faster and no longer reflect their actual age. The study is published in the journal Drug and alcohol addiction.
Accelerated aging and age difference
In order to estimate the impact of cannabis on body condition, researchers followed 154 American volunteers for 17 years, ranging in age from 13 to 30 years. During this time, participants filled out an annual form specifying their cannabis use. At the age of 30, they provided two blood samples to scientists so that they could determine their epigenetic age, thanks to the markers mentioned above. The results of the study showed a clear correlation between cannabis use and accelerated epigenetic aging. In other words, the actual chronological age of the participants was different from their cell age. In addition, the more frequent and significant drug use is, the greater the aging gap. The authors explain: Those who smoked more epigenetically age faster “.
In addition, the researchers’ findings remained consistent even compared to other known factors that influence biological age and the rate of aging, such as smoking status, socioeconomic status, traits of personality and the ability to cope with depression and fear. Researchers point out: While this cannot be determined with certainty, our results correlate with a causal relationship between marijuana use and epigenetic aging. “.
AHRR gene and cannabis
His study, however, underscores an important point: it is not cannabis itself that is aging, but smoking. Further analysis of the results suggests that the acceleration of epigenetic aging due to cannabis use is consistent with changes in a particular gene called AHRR. It is a hydrocarbon receptor repressor gene.
In addition, hypomethylation of this site, which leads to strong gene expression, is related, even in non-smokers, to exposure to fine particles such as those produced by car exhaust, wood. combustion and factory smoke. Therefore, researchers believe that the harm to cannabis smokers is the result of the smoke itself, not THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis, or any other active ingredient found in cannabis. This mediating finding is consistent with the explanation that the observed epigenetic effects of aging reflect the effects of marijuana smoke inhalation (as opposed to THC ingestion). This is also consistent with the large number of findings on the effects of cannabis use that are bronchial in nature.
Finally, the results suggest that the more recent cannabis use, the more intense the person’s aging. This led them to make three hypotheses: either the effects of cannabis consumed at a younger age fade after a certain time, with the decrease in consumption, or the effects of this substance are much stronger in the older people than in adolescents. Or, finally, it is the recent increases in the potency of marijuana available for consumption that could explain, at least in part, these effects. However, the authors point out: Marijuana has significant epigenetic effects on aging, however [peut-être] that these are easily reversible when discontinued “.
Although these findings suggest the association of accelerated epigenetic aging with cannabis use, prospective longitudinal data sets such as these cannot fully establish causal links. However, the team hopes to advance research in this area by exploring additional epigenetic mechanisms, the effects of the quantity, quality and potency of cannabis, and the impact of other forms of cannabis ingestion, in order to clearly define how cannabis affects the epigenome.