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Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2013 Feb;21(1):38-45. doi: 10.1037/a0030742. Epub 2012 Dec 3.

Age of alcohol and cannabis use onset mediates the association of transmissible risk in childhood and development of alcohol and cannabis disorders: evidence for common liability.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Age at the time of first alcohol and cannabis use was investigated in relation to a measure of transmissible (intergenerational) risk for addiction in childhood and development of alcohol use disorder (AUD) and cannabis use disorder (CUD). It was hypothesized that age at the time of first experience with either substance mediates the association between transmissible risk and subsequent diagnosis of both disorders. The Transmissible Liability Index (TLI; (Vanyukov et al., 2009) was administered to 339 10- to 12-year-old boys (n = 254) and girls (n = 85). Age at the time of first alcohol and cannabis use, and diagnosis of AUD and CUD, were prospectively tracked to age 22. Each standard deviation unit increase in TLI severity corresponded to a reduction in age of alcohol and cannabis use onset by 3.2 months and 4.6 months, respectively. Age at the time of first alcohol use mediated the association of TLI with both AUD and CUD. Parallel results were obtained for cannabis. Whereas transmissible risk is congenerous to both AUD and CUD, its magnitude was 7 times greater in youths who initiated substance use with cannabis. TLI predicts age of first use of alcohol and cannabis that is common to developing both AUD and CUD. The ramifications of these findings for prevention are discussed.

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