Cannabis use and symptoms of anxiety in adolescence and the moderating effect of the serotonin transporter gene

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Abstract

There is substantial evidence for the assumption that particularly heavy cannabis usett is associated with a variety of psychopathologic conditions. Little is known about the relationship between cannabis and anxiety. Prior studies have concluded that cannabis use alone is not sufficient for the development of long-term anxiety, and it has been suggested that cannabis is simply a risk factor that operates in conjunction with other risk factors. One such risk factor may be an individuals' genetic vulnerability. The present study examines the relationship between cannabis use and symptoms of anxiety by taking a developmental molecular-genetic perspective with a focus on a polymorphism involved in the regulation of serotonin. Specifically, we concentrated on changes in cannabis use and symptoms of anxiety over time and differences herein for individuals with and without the short allele of the 5-HTTLPR genotype. Data were from 1424 adolescents over a period of 5 years. We used different statistical analyses to test co-development of cannabis use and symptoms of anxiety throughout adolescence and the possible role of the 5-HTTLPR genotype in this process. Results from different analyses showed that cannabis use is associated with an increase in symptoms of anxiety, but only in carriers of the short allele of the 5-HTTLPR genotype, not in non-carriers. The findings of the present study show first evidence that the links between cannabis use and symptoms of anxiety are conditional on the individuals' genetic make-up.

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