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Am J Med Genet. 1996 Sep 20;67(5):473-7.

Genetic influences on DSM-III-R drug abuse and dependence: a study of 3,372 twin pairs.

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  • 1Harvard Institute of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Genetics, Mass Mental Health Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Research and clinical experience indicate that drug use disorders tend to run in families. The objective of this study was to distinguish between the family environment and genetic factors as the source of this observed family resemblance. Data were collected by telephone interview from members of the Vietnam Era Twin Registry, comprising male twin pairs who served in the U.S. military between 1965 and 1975. There were 3,372 pairs in which both twins participated. Drug use disorder was defined as receiving a diagnosis of drug abuse or dependence according to DSM-III-R; 10.1% of the sample had abused or been dependent on at least one illicit drug. A significant difference between concordance rates for monozygotic (26.2%) vs. dizygotic (16.5%) twins indicated a genetic influence on drug use disorder. Biometrical modeling indicated that genetic factors (34% of the variance), the environment shared by twins (28% of the variance), and the nonshared environment (38% of the variance) had significant influences of similar magnitudes on the individual's risk of developing a drug use disorder. These results support the application of molecular genetic approaches to elucidate the genetic influence on drug use disorder, as well as the potential efficacy of environmental intervention to reduce risk.

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