Background: Vulnerability to COVID-19 hospitalization has been linked to behavioral risk factors, including combustible psychoactive substance use (e.g., tobacco smoking). Paralleling the COVID-19 pandemic crisis have been increasingly permissive laws for recreational cannabis use. Cannabis use disorder (CUD) is a psychiatric disorder that is heritable and genetically correlated with respiratory disease, independent of tobacco smoking. We examined the genetic relationship between CUD and COVID-19 hospitalization. Methods: We estimated the genetic correlation between CUD (case: n = 14,080; control: n = 343,726) and COVID-19 hospitalization (case: n = 9373; control: n = 1,197,256) using summary statistics from genome-wide association studies. Using independent genome-wide association studies conducted before the pandemic, we controlled for several covariates (i.e., tobacco use phenotypes, problematic alcohol use, body mass index, fasting glucose, forced expiratory volume, education attainment, risk taking, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Townsend deprivation index, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes) using genomic structural equation modeling. Genetic causality between CUD and COVID-19 hospitalization was estimated using latent causal variable models. Results: Genetic vulnerability to COVID-19 was correlated with genetic liability to CUD (rG = 0.423 [SE = 0.0965], p = 1.33 × 10−6); this association remained when accounting for genetic liability to related risk factors and covariates (b = 0.381–0.539, p =.012–.049). Latent causal variable analysis revealed causal effect estimates that were not statistically significant. Conclusions: Problematic cannabis use and vulnerability to serious COVID-19 complications share genetic underpinnings that are unique from common correlates. While CUD may plausibly contribute to severe COVID-19 presentations, causal inference models yielded no evidence of putative causation. Curbing excessive cannabis use may mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-323
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychiatry Global Open Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Cannabis use disorder
  • Genetic correlations
  • Genome-wide association statistics
  • Tobacco use


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