Common genetic contributions to alcohol and cannabis use and dependence symptomatology

Sartor, Carolyn E., Grant, Julia D., Bucholz, Kathleen K., Madden, Pamela A. F., Heath, Andrew C., Agrawal, Arpana, Whitfield, John B., Statham, Dixie J., Martin, Nicholas G. and Lynkey, Michael T. (2010) Common genetic contributions to alcohol and cannabis use and dependence symptomatology. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 34 3: 545-554. doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2009.01120.x

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Author Sartor, Carolyn E.
Grant, Julia D.
Bucholz, Kathleen K.
Madden, Pamela A. F.
Heath, Andrew C.
Agrawal, Arpana
Whitfield, John B.
Statham, Dixie J.
Martin, Nicholas G.
Lynkey, Michael T.
Title Common genetic contributions to alcohol and cannabis use and dependence symptomatology
Journal name Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0145-6008
Publication date 2010-03
Year available 2009
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2009.01120.x
Volume 34
Issue 3
Start page 545
End page 554
Total pages 10
Place of publication Hoboken, NJ, U.S.A.
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell Publishing
Collection year 2011
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Background:  Despite mounting evidence that use of and dependence on alcohol and cannabis are influenced by heritable factors, the extent to which heritable influences on these phenotypes overlap across the 2 substances has only rarely been explored. In the current study, we quantified cross-substance overlap in sources of variance and estimated the degree to which within-substance associations between use and dependence measures are attributable to common genetic and environmental factors for alcohol and cannabis.

Methods:  The sample was comprised of 6,257 individuals (2,761 complete twin pairs and 735 singletons) from the Australian Twin Registry, aged 24 to 36 years. Alcohol and cannabis use histories were collected via telephone diagnostic interviews and used to derive an alcohol consumption factor, a frequency measure for cannabis use, and DSM-IV alcohol and cannabis dependence symptom counts. Standard genetic analyses were conducted to produce a quadrivariate model that provided estimates of overlap in genetic and environmental influences across the 4 phenotypes.

Results:  Over 60% of variance in alcohol consumption, cannabis use, and cannabis dependence symptoms, and just under 50% of variance in alcohol dependence (AD) symptoms were attributable to genetic sources. Shared environmental factors did not contribute significantly to the 4 phenotypes. Nearly complete overlap in heritable influences was observed for within-substance measures of use and dependence symptoms. Genetic correlations across substances were 0.68 and 0.62 for use and dependence symptoms, respectively.

Conclusions:  Common heritable influences were evident for alcohol and cannabis use and for AD and cannabis dependence symptomatology, but findings indicate that substance-specific influences account for the majority of the genetic variance in the cannabis use and dependence phenotypes. By contrast, the substantial correlations between alcohol use and AD symptoms and between cannabis use and cannabis dependence symptoms suggest that measures of heaviness of use capture much of the same genetic liability to alcohol- and cannabis-related problems as dependence symptomatology.
Copyright © 1999–2011 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Keyword Alcohol Dependence
Cannabis dependence
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Article first published online: 17 Dec 2009

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2011 Collection
School of Medicine Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 13 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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Created: Wed, 30 Mar 2011, 13:09:40 EST by Debbie Banks on behalf of School of Medicine