One of the UK’s top universities is recruiting up to 6,000 participants for the ‘Cannabis and Me’ research project, making it the largest independent study of its kind.
King’s College London, recipients of £2.5m funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC), seek to better understand the effects of cannabis on people, a plant which is consumed daily by 200 million people worldwide.
Citing the ever-increasing consumption of cannabis globally, the study “focuses on understanding the wider impact of cannabis use on the physical and mental health of cannabis users.”
Additionally, researchers aim to examine epigenetics, identifying certain “environmental and biological factors, which can explain the different effects people experience when using cannabis, and in particular, identify those users more likely to experience mental health and social issues.”
The Cannabis & Me Research Study
Seeking participants located in London and aged between 18-45, those looking to take part in the study must be willing to donate a blood sample, be willing to be interviewed face-to-face, and engage with a virtual reality experience.
Moreover, to qualify as a participant for the King’s-led research study, applicants must not have a history and/or current diagnosis for psychotic disorders, nor be receiving treatment for such conditions.
Across the study, researchers will utilise DNA testing, virtual reality tools, and psychological and cognitive analysis.
Epigenetics – the examines how environment and behaviour can affect the way that genes work – will also play a central role in the project, as the team are looking to investigate if there are any markers that might indicate potential problems for certain cannabis consumers.
It is paramount for the study to have comparison groups. Therefore, it is looking for three types of people: those who currently consume cannabis; those who have consumed cannabis a maximum of three times in their life; and those who have never consumed cannabis.
The research team, led by Dr. Marta di Forti, have designed the investigation which will comprise two parts.
Part 1 of the study invites participants to complete an online survey. The research team are looking to better understand “the different effects that people experience when they use cannabis and how these might relate to other recreational drug use, live events, including trauma or illnesses, but also positive situations and social context.”
Furthermore, they are looking to gather feedback on “how mood, anxiety and changes in the way we feel or think in general and in particular in social situations might influence the use of cannabis and vice-versa.”
Part 2 of the study will invite sub-groups of participants to join the research team at King’s for face-to-face assessments.
Speaking to the BBC, Dr. Di Forti explains that gaining a better understanding of how the biological makeup of consumers can influence the subjective effects cannabis has on people, will “provide data and tools that can make physicians in the UK and across the world more confident, where appropriate, in prescribing cannabis safely.”
Despite the UK’s legalisation of medical cannabis in 2018, the number of prescriptions issued by the NHS “remains rare”, with patients typically resorting the private clinics to obtain their medicine.
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