A population-based Swedish Twin and Sibling Study of cannabis, stimulant and sedative abuse in men

Kenneth S. Kendler, Henrik Ohlsson, Hermine H. Maes, Kristina Sundquist, Paul Lichtenstein, Jan Sundquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Prior studies, utilizing interview-based assessments, suggest that most of the genetic risk factors for drug abuse (DA) are non-specific with a minority acting specifically on risk for abuse of particular psychoactive substance classes. We seek to replicate these findings using objective national registry data. Methods: We examined abuse of cannabis, stimulants (including cocaine) and sedatives ascertained from national Swedish registers in male-male monozygotic (1720 pairs) and dizygotic twins (1219 pairs) combined with near-age full siblings (76,457 pairs) to provide sufficient power. Modeling was performed using Mx. Results: A common pathway model fitted better than an independent pathway model. The latent liability to DA was highly heritable but also influenced by shared environment. Cannabis, stimulant and sedative abuse all loaded strongly on the common factor. Estimates for the total heritability for the three forms of substance abuse ranged from 64 to 70%. Between 75 and 90% of that genetic risk was non-specific, coming from the common factor with the remainder deriving from substance specific genetic risk factors. By contrast, all of the shared environmental effects, which accounted for 18-20% of the variance in liability, were non-specific. Conclusions: In accord with prior studies based on personal interviews, the large preponderance of genetic risk factors for abuse of specific classes of psychoactive substance are non-specific. These results suggest that genetic variation in the primary sites of action of the psychoactive drugs, which differ widely across most drug classes, play a minor role in human individual differences in risk for DA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-54
Number of pages6
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Cannabis
  • Drug abuse
  • Genetics
  • Sedatives
  • Stimulants
  • Twins


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