Tobacco, alcohol, cannabis: these drugs modify the epigenetics of adolescents


Translation of an article published in French on 20 February 2022 in CNPERT(*): Centre National de Prévention, d’Etudes et de Recherches en Toxicomanies.                      by Mathilde Debry

The National Academy of Medicine is concerned about the impact of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis consumption on the health of young French people and their future offspring.

-In France, tobacco consumption is responsible for 75,000 deaths per year.
-41,000 French people also die each year from excessive alcohol consumption.

Our teenagers consume too much tobacco, alcohol and cannabis, worries the National Academy of Medicine . The institution is campaigning for new preventive measures to be put in place to better protect them from these products that are dangerous to health.

“Double Punishment”

“Surveys attest to the high prevalence of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use beginning in adolescence, a critical period for brain maturation, which is disrupted,” explain the doctors in a press release . “Young users are exposed to a double penalty: for themselves, due to the direct deleterious effects of these drugs, but also by the epigenetic marks they acquire and which they could transmit to their offspring”, they add . .

Animal studies demonstrate that these epigenetic marks modify both the level of expression of certain genes involved in the behavioral response to drugs and vulnerability to addictions. Epigenetic marks correspond, in a way, to a cellular memory of exposure to certain substances that can be transmitted to the next generation, or even to the following ones. “The epigenetics of addictions should be better understood by decision-makers”, believe health professionals.

New recommendations

Beyond the prohibition of cannabis, the increase in tobacco prices, the prohibition of the sale of alcohol and tobacco to minors and the limitation of their advertising, the National Academy of Medicine recommends:

1 ) to integrate regular information on the dangers of these drugs from primary school through to higher education structures.

2) To promote collective awareness-raising actions on the multiple damage (health, social and societal) caused by legal and illegal drugs, aimed primarily at parents, pregnant women, young adults, health professionals, teachers and professional and political circles.

3) To set up a vast information campaign, particularly targeting young adults of childbearing age, on the risks of transmission to offspring of craving for drugs via epigenetic mechanisms.

4) To further develop programs of social, cultural and sporting activities in order to reduce the risk of drug consumption.

5) To implement ambitious preclinical and clinical research programs with a view to obtaining epigenetic markers of drug addiction, to supporting the intergenerational transmissibility of induced alterations of the epigenome, and even to designing innovative therapeutic strategies for addictions based on epigenetics.


Tabac, alcool, cannabis : ces drogues modifient l’épigénétique des adolescents


Foundation for a Drug-Free Europe was formed in March 2004 with the firm purpose of preventing and stopping debilitating drug use through educating non-users concerning the harmful effects that drugs can inflict upon the body, mind and personality, and by finding and directing existing users to programmes that can help them achieve comfortable abstinence for life.

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