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Genetic and environmental contributions to nicotine, alcohol and cannabis dependence in male twins

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To compute the common and specific genetic and environmental contributions to nicotine dependence (ND) alcohol dependence (AD) and cannabis dependence (CD). Design 

Twin model. Participants 

Data from 1874 monozygotic and 1498 dizygotic twin pair members of the Vietnam Era Twin Registry were obtained via telephone administration of a structured psychiatric interview in 1992. Measurements 

Data to derive life-time diagnoses of DSM-III-R ND, AD and CD were obtained via telephone administration of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule. Findings 

The best-fitting model allowed for additive genetic contributions and unique environmental influences that were common to all three phenotypes. Risks for ND and AD were also due to genetic and unique environmental influences specific to each drug. A specific shared environmental factor contributed to CD. Conclusions 

These results suggest that the life-time co-occurrence of ND, AD and CD is due to common and specific genetic factors as well as unique environmental influences, and vulnerability for CD is also due to shared environmental factors that do not contribute to ND and AD. The majority of genetic variance is shared across drugs and the majority of unique environmental influences are drug-specific in these middle-aged men. Because differences between models allowing for specific genetic versus shared environment were small, we are most confident in concluding that there are specific familial contributions—either additive genetic or shared environment—to CD.

Keywords: Alcohol; cannabis; co-morhid; dependence; gene-environment; nicotine; twins

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Midwest Alcoholism Research Center, Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO, USA,

Publication date: August 1, 2008


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