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Cannabis use and risk of schizophrenia: a Mendelian randomization study

By Julien Vaucher, Brendan J Keating, Aurélie M. Lasserre, Wei Gan, Donald M Lyall, Joey Ward, Daniel J Smith, Jill P Pell, Naveed Sattar, Guillaume Paré, Michael V Holmes

Posted 07 Dec 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/092015 (published DOI: 10.1038/mp.2016.252)

Cannabis use is observationally associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia, however whether the relationship is causal is not known. To determine the nature of the association between cannabis use on risk of schizophrenia using Mendelian randomization (MR) analysis, we used ten genetic variants previously identified to associate with cannabis use in 32,330 individuals. Genetic variants were used in a MR analyses of the association of genetically determined cannabis on risk of schizophrenia in 34,241 cases and 45,604 controls from predominantly European descent. Estimates from MR were compared to a metaanalysis of observational studies reporting effect estimates for ever use of cannabis and risk of schizophrenia or related disorders. Genetically determined use of cannabis was associated with increased risk of schizophrenia (OR of schizophrenia for users vs. non-users of cannabis: 1.37; 95%CI, 1.09 to 1.67; P-value=0.007). The corresponding estimate from observational analysis was 1.50 (95% CI, 1.10 to 2.00; P-value for heterogeneity = 0.88). The genetic instrument did not show evidence of pleiotropy on MR-Egger (Egger test, P-value=0.292) nor on multivariable MR accounting for tobacco exposure (OR of schizophrenia for users vs. nonusers of cannabis, adjusted for ever vs. never smoker: 1.41; 95% CI, 1.09-1.83). Furthermore, the causal estimate remained robust to sensitivity analyses. These findings strongly support a causal association between genetically determined use of cannabis and risk of schizophrenia. Such robust evidence may inform public health message about the risks of cannabis use, especially regarding its potential mental health consequences.

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