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Behav Genet. 1999 Nov;29(6):473-9.

Genetic and environmental influences on transitions in drug use.

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  • 1Harvard Institute of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Genetics, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Genetic and environmental factors influence drug abuse, but abuse represents the culmination of a sequence of events. Different levels of use may have different determinants and these determinants may differ across drug types. Approximately 3200 male-male twin pairs from the Vietnam Era Twin Registry were interviewed by telephone. Data were obtained regarding exposure to six categories of illicit drugs, initiation of use, continuation of use, regular usage, and diagnosis of drug abuse/dependence. Genetic, common environmental, and unique environmental influences on transitions of drug involvement, defined as movement from one level of drug use to the next, were investigated. Marijuana had the highest conditional probability for the transition from exposure to use, from use to use more than five times, and from use more than five times to regular use. The rate of transition to regular use of heroin was higher than the rate for amphetamine, cocaine, sedatives, and psychedelics. Cocaine had the highest conditional probability for the transition from regular use to abuse/dependence. Significant genetic influences were observed for a number of transitions in marijuana, amphetamine, and cocaine usage.

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