Associations Between Cannabis Use, Polygenic Liability for Schizophrenia, and Cannabis-related Experiences in a Sample of Cannabis Users

Emma C. Johnson, Sarah M.C. Colbert, Paul W. Jeffries, Rebecca Tillman, Tim B. Bigdeli, Nicole R. Karcher, Grace Chan, Samuel Kuperman, Jacquelyn L. Meyers, John I. Nurnberger, Martin H. Plawecki, Louisa Degenhardt, Nicholas G. Martin, Chella Kamarajan, Marc A. Schuckit, Robin M. Murray, Danielle M. Dick, Howard J. Edenberg, Deepak Cyril D’Souza, Marta Di FortiBernice Porjesz, Elliot C. Nelson, Arpana Agrawal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background and Hypothesis: Risk for cannabis use and schizophrenia is influenced in part by genetic factors, and there is evidence that genetic risk for schizophrenia is associated with subclinical psychotic-like experiences (PLEs). Few studies to date have examined whether genetic risk for schizophrenia is associated with cannabis-related PLEs. Study Design: We tested whether measures of cannabis involvement and polygenic risk scores (PRS) for schizophrenia were associated with self-reported cannabis-related experiences in a sample ascertained for alcohol use disorders (AUDs), the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA). We analyzed 4832 subjects (3128 of European ancestry and 1704 of African ancestry; 42% female; 74% meeting lifetime criteria for an AUD). Study Results: Cannabis use disorder (CUD) was prevalent in this analytic sample (70%), with 40% classified as mild, 25% as moderate, and 35% as severe. Polygenic risk for schizophrenia was positively associated with cannabis-related paranoia, feeling depressed or anhedonia, social withdrawal, and cognitive difficulties, even when controlling for duration of daily cannabis use, CUD, and age at first cannabis use. The schizophrenia PRS was most robustly associated with cannabis-related cognitive difficulties (β = 0.22, SE = 0.04, P = 5.2e−7). In an independent replication sample (N = 1446), associations between the schizophrenia PRS and cannabis-related experiences were in the expected direction and not statistically different in magnitude from those in the COGA sample. Conclusions: Among individuals who regularly use cannabis, genetic liability for schizophrenia—even in those without clinical features—may increase the likelihood of reporting unusual experiences related to cannabis use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)778-787
Number of pages10
JournalSchizophrenia bulletin
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2023


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