Send to

Choose Destination
J Stud Alcohol. 1999 May;60(3):293-305.

Tobacco, alcohol and drug use in eight- to sixteen-year-old twins: the Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavioral Development.

Author information

Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond 23298-0003, USA.



This study reports prevalences of lifetime and current alcohol, tobacco and drug use in adolescents; examines associations between substance use and a number of putative risk factors; and estimates the contribution of genetic, shared and unique environmental influences on substance use.


Substance use data were collected using the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment on a population sample of 1,412 male and female monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs, aged 8 through 16, from the Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavioral Development.


Heritabilities were estimated to be 84% and 82% for liability to lifetime and current tobacco use, respectively. For alcohol use the role of genes and environment varied according to the context of reporting. Liability to lifetime alcohol use was estimated to be under environmental control, with 71% of the variation shared by members of a twin pair and 29% unique to individual twins. Lifetime alcohol use without the permission of a parent or guardian and current use of alcohol were predominantly explained by genetic factors (h2 = 72% and 74%). The role of genetic factors increased and that of unique environmental factors decreased with increasing severity of alcohol use. Lifetime use of any drug showed a heritability of 45%, with the shared environment accounting for 47% of the variation. Shared environmental factors explained most of the variation in marijuana use.


Genetic factors explained a significant proportion of the variation in the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Shared environmental factors contributed significantly to lifetime alcohol use and other drug use.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Dartmouth Journal Services
Loading ...
Support Center