Lifetime marijuana use and epigenetic age acceleration: A 17-year prospective examination

This study was designed to assess links between lifetime levels of marijuana use and accelerated epigenetic aging. This was a prospective longitudinal study, following participants annually from age 13 to age 30. The participants were 154 individuals from a small city in the Southeastern United States. Participants completed annual assessments of marijuana use from age 13 to age 29 and provided blood samples that yielded two indices of epigenetic aging (DNAmGrimAge and DunedinPoAm) at age 30. Additional covariates examined included history of cigarette smoking, anxiety and depressive symptoms, childhood illness, gender, adolescent-era family income, and racial/ethnic minority status.

The findings were that lifetime marijuana use predicted accelerated epigenetic aging, with effects remaining even after covarying cell counts, demographic factors and chronological age (β’s = 0.32 & 0.27, p’s < 0.001, 95% CI’s = 0.21–0.43 & 0.16–0.39 for DNAmGrimAge and DunedinPoAm, respectively). Predictions remained after accounting for cigarette smoking (β’s = 0.25 & 0.21, respectively, p’s < 0.001, 95% CI’s = 0.14–0.37 & 0.09–0.32 for DNAmGrimAge and DunedinPoAm, respectively). A dose-response effect was observed and there was also evidence that effects were dependent upon recency of use. Effects of marijuana use appeared to be fully mediated by hypomethylation of a site linked to effects of hydrocarbon inhalation (cg05575921).

The conclusion of the study was that marijuana use predicted epigenetic changes linked to accelerated aging, with evidence suggesting that effects may be primarily due to hydrocarbon inhalation among marijuana smokers. Further research is warranted to explore mechanisms underlying this linkage.

Click here to read the full study, published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence Volume 233: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2022.109363

For more information on the International Academy on the Science and Impact of Cannabis, and to join, please visit www.IASIC1.org.

Visit the IASIC Library here (https://iasic1.org/library/). The IASIC Library is intended as a user-friendly reference of the published medical literature.

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