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Addict Behav. 2010 Jan;35(1):35-41. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2009.08.006. Epub 2009 Aug 14.

A cotwin-control analysis of drug use and abuse/dependence risk associated with early-onset cannabis use.

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The Midwest Alcoholism Research Center at Washington University, Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


We assessed whether, after controlling for genetic and shared environmental influences, early cannabis use remains a significant predictor of other drug use, abuse, and dependence, and whether the risk for early-users is greater than that for later cannabis users. Data from a 1992 telephone diagnostic interview of 8169 male twins (M=42.0 years at interview) who served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam-era were used to identify a subsample of 293 monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs discordant for early cannabis use (before age 18). Using cotwin-control analyses, outcomes assessed were: lifetime illegal drug use (stimulant/cocaine, sedative, opiate, and hallucinogen/PCP), lifetime DSM-III-R illegal drug abuse/dependence, and lifetime DSM-III-R alcohol dependence. After controlling for covariates, early cannabis users were at greater risk than their later/never-using cotwins for 8 of 9 substance-related comparisons, including: using other illegal drugs (ORs: 2.71-4.09), having illegal drug abuse/dependence (ORs: 2.02-2.13), and developing alcohol dependence (OR=2.36). When analyses were limited to pairs in which the cotwin used cannabis later, early and later-users only differed significantly on sedative, opiate, and hallucinogen use. After familial influences on early cannabis use were controlled for, cannabis use-regardless of the age of initiation-still conferred increased risk of other illegal drug use, drug abuse/dependence, and alcohol dependence. In contrast to previous research, there is limited evidence for increased risk associated with early-onset use in this sample of Vietnam-era veterans.

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