Genetic testing has many applications for the scientific world, but not as many in the day-to-day life of the average person. Instead, for most people genetics is something their doctors may have mentioned when they preserved their baby’s stem cells, or something they hear in the movies or when they read. The science though may start to play a much more significant role in people’s lives soon.
A general practicing doctor will diagnose a patient’s symptoms and refer them to specialists, but what if that diagnosis could be done with a simple sample of saliva or blood? What if that diagnosis did not just indicate a patient’s current ailments but also ailments that have not come up yet? What if it could tell you how to prevent ailments from ever occurring?
It would be a big shift from patients’ current relationships with their doctors, and like any major paradigm shift, the transition is taking a while. However, legalized medical cannabis may be the key to speed up the transition. Tests are being created that can tell people if they are allergic to cannabis, or what cannanbinoids combinations and dosage amounts will help manage anxiety, insomnia or any of the many ailments people suffer from. As research continues on cannabis, genetic testing may get intertwined simultaneously with the study so that it becomes a common practice for new medical marijuana patients.
What if a test could tell you that you may have a bad reaction to pot before you ever smoked your first spliff? One biotech company has created such a tool, and it’s already available to purchase.
What if a test could tell you that you may have a negative reaction to pot before you ever smoked your first spliff? What if this same test could tell you if you’re likely to develop a habitual smoking problem? What if you could perform this test in your own home?
The world’s first cannabis genetic test will be available within the next month, offered by a Canadian company called AnantLife, which specializes in genetic testing and counseling for a variety of medical conditions, including assessments for cancer, autoimmune disorders, and dietary issues. The test is fairly simple: you take a sample of your saliva, mail the sample to the company, and they perform NextGen sequencing on your DNA. Using molecular biology tricks, they can identify genetic “markers” in your DNA that could indicate a higher probability toward adverse reactions from cannabis use, such as complications with mental disorders or the risk of becoming psychologically dependent on smoking.
Genetic markers are identified by what geneticists call “polymorphisms” in a particular gene. Although genes always have specific locations on the DNA, regardless of the individual, the exact makeup of that gene may differ from person to person. Those differences are polymorphisms, and certain gene variants carry specific polymorphisms. NextGen sequencing is designed to find those particular polymorphisms in the DNA, then copy that gene millions if not billions of times. If the gene in question is present in someone’s DNA, the copies will show up during analysis. If the individual does not possess that gene variant, the NextGen sequencing will be incapable of creating copies of that gene. Yes, the technology is that precise.
According to the most recent research, roughly 10 percent of cannabis users will develop a psychological dependence on the drug. A dependence is defined as habitual use that impedes or interferes with daily functioning. For instance, getting stoned and forgetting where your car keys are is not a sign of cannabis dependence. However, if your bong sessions cause you to keep missing work to the point that you can’t hold a job, then you may have cannabis dependency.
Most of us stoners may laugh at the idea of cannabis dependence — even daily use doesn’t equate to a full-blown addiction. But let’s be honest: we’ve all met at least one pothead who could benefit from taking a week-long break. Pair that (slim) reality of dependence with other problems, such as cannabis-induced anxiety or depression, and we see why some people, especially new patients who don’t identify with “marijuana culture,” may be interested in taking this test before they begin using the plant.