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Drug classes are grouped based on their chemical and pharmacological properties, but prescription and illicit drugs differ in other important ways. Potential differences in genetic and environmental influences on the (mis)use of prescription and illicit drugs that are subsumed under the same class should be examined. Opioid and stimulant classes contain prescription and illicit forms differentially associated with salient risk factors (common route of administration, legality), making them useful comparators for addressing this etiological issue.
A total of 2410 individual Australian twins [Mage = 31.77 (s.d. = 2.48); 67% women] were interviewed about prescription misuse and illicit use of opioids and stimulants. Univariate and bivariate biometric models partitioned variances and covariances into additive genetic, shared environmental, and unique environmental influences across drug types.
Variation in the propensity to misuse prescription opioids was attributable to genes (41%) and unique environment (59%). Illicit opioid use was attributable to shared (71%) and unique (29%) environment. Prescription stimulant misuse was attributable to genes (79%) and unique environment (21%). Illicit stimulant use was attributable to genes (48%), shared environment (29%), and unique environment (23%). There was evidence for genetic influence common to both stimulant types, but limited evidence for genetic influence common to both opioid types. Bivariate correlations suggested that prescription opioid use may be more genetically similar to prescription stimulant use than to illicit opioid use.
Prescription opioid misuse may share little genetic influence with illicit opioid use. Future research may consider avoiding unitary drug classifications, particularly when examining genetic influences.
Substance use and psychiatric illness, particularly psychotic disorders, contribute to violence in emergency healthcare settings. However, there is limited research regarding the relationship between specific substances, psychotic symptoms and violent behaviour in such settings. We investigated the interaction between recent cannabinoid and stimulant use, and acute psychotic symptoms, in relation to violent behaviour in a British emergency healthcare setting.
We used electronic medical records from detentions of 1089 individuals under Section 136 of the UK Mental Health Act (1983 amended 2007), an emergency police power used to detain people for 24–36 h for psychiatric assessment. The relationship between recent cannabinoids and/or stimulant use, psychotic symptoms, and violent behaviour, was estimated using logistic regression.
There was evidence of recent alcohol or drug use in 64.5% of detentions. Violent incidents occurred in 12.6% of detentions. Psychotic symptoms increased the odds of violence by 4.0 [95% confidence intervals (CI) 2.2–7.4; p < 0.0001]. Cannabinoid use combined with psychotic symptoms increased the odds of violence further [odds ratios (OR) 7.1, 95% CI 3.7–13.6; p < 0.0001]. Recent use of cannabinoids with stimulants but without psychotic symptoms was also associated with increased odds of violence (OR 3.3, 95% CI 1.4–7.9; p < 0.0001).
In the emergency setting, patients who have recently used cannabinoids and exhibit psychotic symptoms are at higher risk of violent behaviour. Those who have used both stimulants and cannabinoids without psychotic symptoms may also be at increased risk. De-escalation protocols in emergency healthcare settings should account explicitly for substance use.
Daily use of high-potency cannabis has been reported to carry a high risk for developing a psychotic disorder. However, the evidence is mixed on whether any pattern of cannabis use is associated with a particular symptomatology in first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients.
We analysed data from 901 FEP patients and 1235 controls recruited across six countries, as part of the European Network of National Schizophrenia Networks Studying Gene-Environment Interactions (EU-GEI) study. We used item response modelling to estimate two bifactor models, which included general and specific dimensions of psychotic symptoms in patients and psychotic experiences in controls. The associations between these dimensions and cannabis use were evaluated using linear mixed-effects models analyses.
In patients, there was a linear relationship between the positive symptom dimension and the extent of lifetime exposure to cannabis, with daily users of high-potency cannabis having the highest score (B = 0.35; 95% CI 0.14–0.56). Moreover, negative symptoms were more common among patients who never used cannabis compared with those with any pattern of use (B = −0.22; 95% CI −0.37 to −0.07). In controls, psychotic experiences were associated with current use of cannabis but not with the extent of lifetime use. Neither patients nor controls presented differences in depressive dimension related to cannabis use.
Our findings provide the first large-scale evidence that FEP patients with a history of daily use of high-potency cannabis present with more positive and less negative symptoms, compared with those who never used cannabis or used low-potency types.
As new cannabis products and administration methods proliferate, patterns of use are becoming increasingly heterogeneous. However, few studies have explored different profiles of cannabis use and their association with problematic use.
Latent class analysis (LCA) was used to identify subgroups of past-year cannabis users endorsing distinct patterns of use from a large international sample (n = 55 240). Past-12-months use of six different cannabis types (sinsemilla, herbal, hashish, concentrates, kief, edibles) were used as latent class indicators. Participants also reported the frequency and amount of cannabis used, whether they had ever received a mental health disorder diagnosis and their cannabis dependence severity via the Severity of Dependence Scale (SDS).
LCA identified seven distinct classes of cannabis use, characterised by high probabilities of using: sinsemilla & herbal (30.3% of the sample); sinsemilla, herbal & hashish (20.4%); herbal (18.4%); hashish & herbal (18.8%); all types (5.7%); edibles & herbal (4.6%) and concentrates & sinsemilla (1.7%). Relative to the herbal class, classes characterised by sinsemilla and/or hashish use had increased dependence severity. By contrast, the classes characterised by concentrates use did not show strong associations with cannabis dependence but reported greater rates of ever receiving a mental health disorder diagnosis.
The identification of these distinct classes underscores heterogeneity among cannabis use behaviours and provides novel insight into their different associations with addiction and mental health.
Gambling disorder (GD), recognized in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Version 5 (DSM-5) as a behavioral addiction, is associated with a range of adverse outcomes. However, there has been little research on the genetic and environmental influences on the development of this disorder. This study reports results from the largest twin study of GD conducted to date.
Replication and combined analyses were based on samples of 3292 (mean age 31.8, born 1972–79) and 4764 (mean age 37.7, born 1964–71) male, female, and unlike-sex twin pairs from the Australian Twin Registry. Univariate biometric twin models estimated the proportion of variation in the latent GD liability that could be attributed to genetic, shared environmental, and unique environmental factors, and whether these differed quantitatively or qualitatively for men and women.
In the replication study, when using a lower GD threshold, there was evidence for significant genetic (60%; 95% confidence interval (CI) 45–76%) and unique environmental (40%; 95% CI 24–56%), but not shared environmental contributions (0%; 95% CI 0–0%) to GD liability; this did not significantly differ from the original study. In the combined analysis, higher GD thresholds (such as one consistent with DSM-5 GD) and a multiple threshold definitions of GD yielded similar results. There was no evidence for quantitative or qualitative sex differences in the liability for GD.
Twin studies of GD are few in number but they tell a remarkably similar story: substantial genetic and unique environmental influences, with no evidence for shared environmental contributions or sex differences in GD liability.
Prior research has documented shared heritable contributions to non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and suicidal ideation (SI) as well as NSSI and suicide attempt (SA). In addition, trauma exposure has been implicated in risk for NSSI and suicide. Genetically informative studies are needed to determine common sources of liability to all three self-injurious thoughts and behaviors, and to clarify the nature of their associations with traumatic experiences.
Multivariate biometric modeling was conducted using data from 9526 twins [59% female, mean age = 31.7 years (range 24–42)] from two cohorts of the Australian Twin Registry, some of whom also participated in the Childhood Trauma Study and the Nicotine Addiction Genetics Project.
The prevalences of high-risk trauma exposure (HRT), NSSI, SI, and SA were 24.4, 5.6, 27.1, and 4.6%, respectively. All phenotypes were moderately to highly correlated. Genetic influences on self-injurious thoughts and behaviors and HRT were significant and highly correlated among men [rG = 0.59, 95% confidence interval (CI) (0.37–0.81)] and women [rG = 0.56 (0.49–0.63)]. Unique environmental influences were modestly correlated in women [rE = 0.23 (0.01–0.45)], suggesting that high-risk trauma may confer some direct risk for self-injurious thoughts and behaviors among females.
Individuals engaging in NSSI are at increased risk for suicide, and common heritable factors contribute to these associations. Preventing trauma exposure may help to mitigate risk for self-harm and suicide, either directly or indirectly via reductions in liability to psychopathology more broadly. In addition, targeting pre-existing vulnerability factors could significantly reduce risk for life-threatening behaviors among those who have experienced trauma.
The genetic component of Cannabis Use Disorder may overlap with influences acting more generally on early stages of cannabis use. This paper aims to determine the extent to which genetic influences on the development of cannabis abuse/dependence are correlated with those acting on the opportunity to use cannabis and frequency of use.
A cross-sectional study of 3303 Australian twins, measuring age of onset of cannabis use opportunity, lifetime frequency of cannabis use, and lifetime DSM-IV cannabis abuse/dependence. A trivariate Cholesky decomposition estimated additive genetic (A), shared environment (C) and unique environment (E) contributions to the opportunity to use cannabis, the frequency of cannabis use, cannabis abuse/dependence, and the extent of overlap between genetic and environmental factors associated with each phenotype.
Variance components estimates were A = 0.64 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.58–0.70] and E = 0.36 (95% CI 0.29–0.42) for age of opportunity to use cannabis, A = 0.74 (95% CI 0.66–0.80) and E = 0.26 (95% CI 0.20–0.34) for cannabis use frequency, and A = 0.78 (95% CI 0.65–0.88) and E = 0.22 (95% CI 0.12–0.35) for cannabis abuse/dependence. Opportunity shares 45% of genetic influences with the frequency of use, and only 17% of additive genetic influences are unique to abuse/dependence from those acting on opportunity and frequency.
There are significant genetic contributions to lifetime cannabis abuse/dependence, but a large proportion of this overlaps with influences acting on opportunity and frequency of use. Individuals without drug use opportunity are uninformative, and studies of drug use disorders must incorporate individual exposure to accurately identify aetiology.
The number of people entering specialist drug treatment for cannabis problems has increased considerably in recent years. The reasons for this are unclear, but rising cannabis potency could be a contributing factor.
Cannabis potency data were obtained from an ongoing monitoring programme in the Netherlands. We analysed concentrations of δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the most popular variety of domestic herbal cannabis sold in each retail outlet (2000–2015). Mixed effects linear regression models examined time-dependent associations between THC and first-time cannabis admissions to specialist drug treatment. Candidate time lags were 0–10 years, based on normative European drug treatment data.
THC increased from a mean (95% CI) of 8.62 (7.97–9.27) to 20.38 (19.09–21.67) from 2000 to 2004 and then decreased to 15.31 (14.24–16.38) in 2015. First-time cannabis admissions (per 100 000 inhabitants) rose from 7.08 to 26.36 from 2000 to 2010, and then decreased to 19.82 in 2015. THC was positively associated with treatment entry at lags of 0–9 years, with the strongest association at 5 years, b = 0.370 (0.317–0.424), p < 0.0001. After adjusting for age, sex and non-cannabis drug treatment admissions, these positive associations were attenuated but remained statistically significant at lags of 5–7 years and were again strongest at 5 years, b = 0.082 (0.052–0.111), p < 0.0001.
In this 16-year observational study, we found positive time-dependent associations between changes in cannabis potency and first-time cannabis admissions to drug treatment. These associations are biologically plausible, but their strength after adjustment suggests that other factors are also important.
The current study examined a stage-based alcohol use trajectory model to test for potential causal effects of earlier drinking milestones on later drinking milestones in a combined sample of two cohorts of Australian monozygotic and same-sex dizygotic twins (N = 7,398, age M = 30.46, SD = 2.61, 61% male, 56% monozygotic twins). Ages of drinking, drunkenness, regular drinking, tolerance, first nontolerance alcohol use disorder symptom, and alcohol use disorder symptom onsets were assessed retrospectively. Ages of milestone attainment (i.e., age-of-onset) and time between milestones (i.e., time-to-event) were examined via frailty models within a multilevel discordant twin design. For age-of-onset models, earlier ages of onset of antecedent drinking milestones increased hazards for earlier ages of onset for more proximal subsequent drinking milestones. For the time-to-event models, however, earlier ages of onset for the “starting” milestone decreased risk for a shorter time period between the starting and the “ending” milestone. Earlier age of onset of intermediate milestones between starting and ending drinking milestones had the opposite effect, increasing risk for a shorter time period between the starting and ending milestones. These results are consistent with a causal effect of an earlier age of drinking milestone onset on temporally proximal subsequent drinking milestones.
This study examined the interplay between the influence of peers who promote alcohol use and μ-opioid receptor M1 (OPRM1) genetic variation in the intergenerational transmission of alcohol use disorder (AUD) symptoms while separating the “traitlike” components of AUD symptoms from their age-specific manifestations at three ages from emerging adulthood (17–23 years) to adulthood (29–40 years). The results for males were consistent with genetically influenced peer selection mechanisms as mediators of parent alcoholism effects. Male children of alcoholics were less likely to be carriers of the G allele in single nucleotide polymorphism A118G (rs1799971), and those who were homozygous for the A allele were more likely to affiliate with alcohol use promoting peers who increased the risk for AUD symptoms at all ages. There was evidence for women of an interaction between OPRM1 variation and peer affiliations but only at the earliest age band. Peer influences had stronger effects among women who were G-carriers. These results illustrate the complex ways in which the interplay between influences at multiple levels of analysis can underlie the intergenerational transmission of alcohol disorders as well as the importance of considering age and gender differences in these pathways.
Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug throughout the developed world and there is consistent evidence of heritable influences on multiple stages of cannabis involvement including initiation of use and abuse/dependence. In this paper, we describe the methodology and preliminary results of a large-scale interview study of 3,824 young adult twins (born 1972–1979) and their siblings. Cannabis use was common with 75.2% of males and 64.7% of females reporting some lifetime use of cannabis while 24.5% of males and 11.8% of females reported meeting criteria for DSM-IV cannabis abuse or dependence. Rates of other drug use disorders and common psychiatric conditions were highly correlated with extent of cannabis involvement and there was consistent evidence of heritable influences across a range of cannabis phenotypes including early (≤15 years) opportunity to use (h2 = 72%), early (≤16 years) onset use (h2 = 80%), using cannabis 11+ times lifetime (h2 = 76%), and DSM abuse/dependence (h2 = 72%). Early age of onset of cannabis use was strongly associated with increased rates of subsequent use of other illicit drugs and with illicit drug abuse/dependence; further analyses indicating that some component of this association may have been mediated by increasing exposure to and opportunity to use other illicit drugs.
Genetic research on risk of alcohol, tobacco or drug dependence must make allowance for the partial overlap of risk-factors for initiation of use, and risk-factors for dependence or other outcomes in users. Except in the extreme cases where genetic and environmental risk-factors for initiation and dependence overlap completely or are uncorrelated, there is no consensus about how best to estimate the magnitude of genetic or environmental correlations between Initiation and Dependence in twin and family data. We explore by computer simulation the biases to estimates of genetic and environmental parameters caused by model misspecification when Initiation can only be defined as a binary variable. For plausible simulated parameter values, the two-stage genetic models that we consider yield estimates of genetic and environmental variances for Dependence that, although biased, are not very discrepant from the true values. However, estimates of genetic (or environmental) correlations between Initiation and Dependence may be seriously biased, and may differ markedly under different two-stage models. Such estimates may have little credibility unless external data favor selection of one particular model. These problems can be avoided if Initiation can be assessed as a multiple-category variable (e.g. never versus early-onset versus later onset user), with at least two categories measurable in users at risk for dependence. Under these conditions, under certain distributional assumptions, recovery of simulated genetic and environmental correlations becomes possible. Illustrative application of the model to Australian twin data on smoking confirmed substantial heritability of smoking persistence (42%) with minimal overlap with genetic influences on initiation.
Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and physical abuse (CPA) are well-established risk-factors for a wide of range of proximal and distal outcomes. The lack of availability of an optimal design for examining abuse and its consequences has resulted in the use of various approaches, each having its own limitations. We describe the Childhood Trauma Study, which ascertained families from a large young adult Australian twin cohort on the basis of twins' responses to screening questions assessing CSA and CPA. We report data from 3407 participants including twins, non-twin siblings, and their parents. Our data demonstrate the feasibility of using a comprehensive assessment to evaluate retrospective history of childhood abuse in an adult sample. We observed that risk for each form of abuse increased incrementally with the number of parents with alcohol problems. Psychometric properties of our measures of CSA and CPA including reasonable long-term stability, construct validity, and evidence of familial corroboration compare favorably with those of other reports in which samples were considerably younger and assessments were repeated over shorter intervals.
This article applies methods of latent class analysis (LCA) to data on lifetime illicit drug use in order to determine whether qualitatively distinct classes of illicit drug users can be identified. Self-report data on lifetime illicit drug use (cannabis, stimulants, hallucinogens, sedatives, inhalants, cocaine, opioids and solvents) collected from a sample of 6265 Australian twins (average age 30 years) were analyzed using LCA. Rates of childhood sexual and physical abuse, lifetime alcohol and tobacco dependence, symptoms of illicit drug abuse/dependence and psychiatric comorbidity were compared across classes using multinomial logistic regression. LCA identified a 5-class model: Class 1 (68.5%) had low risks of the use of all drugs except cannabis; Class 2 (17.8%) had moderate risks of the use of all drugs; Class 3 (6.6%) had high rates of cocaine, other stimulant and hallucinogen use but lower risks for the use of sedatives or opioids. Conversely, Class 4 (3.0%) had relatively low risks of cocaine, other stimulant or hallucinogen use but high rates of sedative and opioid use. Finally, Class 5 (4.2%) had uniformly high probabilities for the use of all drugs. Rates of psychiatric comorbidity were highest in the polydrug class although the sedative/opioid class had elevated rates of depression/suicidal behaviors and exposure to childhood abuse. Aggregation of population-level data may obscure important subgroup differences in patterns of illicit drug use and psychiatric comorbidity. Further exploration of a ‘self-medicating’ subgroup is needed.
Alcohol abuse and dependence are among the most common psychiatric conditions identified in epidemiological surveys of the general population. The aim of this article is to examine the psychometric properties of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (4th ed.; DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association, 1994) criteria for alcohol abuse and dependence using latent class analysis (LCA). Six thousand two hundred and sixty-five young Australian twins (median age 30 years) were interviewed by telephone between 1996 and 2000 using a modified version of the Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism (SSAGA). DSM-IV symptoms of alcohol abuse and dependence were collected by structured diagnostic interview and analyzed using methods of LCA. LCA revealed a 4-class solution for women that classified individuals according to the severity of their alcohol- related problems: no/few problems (66.5%), heavy drinking (23.9%), moderate dependence (7.6%) and severe dependence (2.0%). Among men the preferred solution included 5 classes corresponding to no/few problems (46.4%), heavy drinking (34.3%), moderate dependence (12.2%), severe dependence (3.0%) and abuse (4.0%). Evidence of a male-specific class of alcohol-related problems corresponding to abuse partially supports the DSM conceptualization of alcohol use disorders but suggests that this conceptualization — and measurement — may need to be refined for women. Identification of a male- specific abuse class also has important implications for interventions and treatment as these individuals experienced significant alcohol-related problems and comprised approximately 21% of all men classified with an alcohol use disorder.
We investigated the genetic and environmental contributions to covariation between smoking age-at-onset, cigarette consumption and smoking persistence.
Multivariate biometrical modelling methods were applied to questionnaire data from Australian twins and their siblings (14 472 individuals from 6247 families). The contributions of genetic and environmental factors to covariation between the three traits were estimated, allowing for sex differences in both trait prevalence and the magnitude of genetic and environmental effects.
All traits were moderately heritable in males and females (estimates between 0·40 and 0·62), but there were sex differences in the extent to which additive genetic influences were shared across traits. Twin-specific environmental factors accounted for a substantial proportion of the variance in smoking age-at-onset in females (0·19) and males (0·12), but had little influence (<0·08) on other traits. Unique environmental factors were estimated to have a moderate influence on smoking age-at-onset (0·17 for females, 0·19 for males), but a stronger influence on other traits (between 0·39 and 0·49).
These results provide some insight into observed sex differences in smoking behaviour, and suggest that searching for pleiotropic genes may prove fruitful. However, further work on phenotypic definitions of smoking behaviour, particularly persistence, is warranted.
Background. This study examined the relationships between self-reported childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and drug-related outcomes in an Australian twin panel.
Method. A semi-structured psychiatric interview was conducted in 1996–2000 by telephone with young adult Australian twins (mean age 29·9 years). Data reported here are from 6050 twins who responded to both CSA and drug-related items.
Results. A history of CSA was associated with significant risk for subsequently occurring regular smoking and use of each illicit drug class. Further CSA-associated risk was found among regular users, for nicotine and alcohol dependence, and among illicit drug users, for abuse/dependence of most drug classes. In same-sex discordant pairs, significant risk for regular smoking and illicit drug use was found in twins with a history of CSA compared to their non-abused co-twins. Similar analyses for abuse/dependence found significant risk for opioids, any illicit drug, and any non-cannabis illicit drug. CSA was associated with significantly earlier drug use. Despite the association of CSA with risk for early-onset cannabis use and regular smoking, risks for illicit drug outcomes associated with CSA and with either form of early-onset use combine in near-additive fashion.
Conclusions. CSA is associated with risk for subsequently occurring regular smoking and illicit drug use and abuse/dependence. Risks for drug use are mildly attenuated with control for familial contributions; similar risks for abuse/dependence remain significant for opioids and for illicit drugs combined across classes. Although we found evidence of earlier onset drug use with CSA, risks associated with CSA and with early-onset use combine in a largely additive manner.
Background. Early alcohol use is associated with abuse and dependence of licit and illicit substances later in life. The role of genetic and environmental factors in this association is not conclusive.
Method. In 1992, data on substance use, abuse/dependence and psychiatric disorders were collected from 8169 male twin members of the Vietnam Era Twin Registry. The interview obtained age of onset of regular drinking (one drink/month for 6 or more months). Regression analyses of twin pairs discordant for early alcohol use tested whether the association between early drinking (before age 17) and adult substance use and abuse/dependence remained after controlling for genetic factors, family environment and covariates. Twin models tested for common genetic and/or environmental influences on early drinking and adult alcohol dependence and ever use and abuse/dependence on marijuana and other drugs.
Results. Co-twin analyses suggested the association between early regular alcohol use and adult alcohol dependence, marijuana and other drug use, and marijuana and other drug abuse/dependence could not be entirely explained by common genetic and shared family environmental factors. Genetic contributions to early regular drinking were significantly correlated with those on use of marijuana (rA=0·59), use of other drugs (rA=0·64), alcohol dependence (rA=0·54) and abuse/dependence of marijuana and other drugs (rA=0·63 and 0·66). Small but significant unique environmental correlations (rE range 0·11–0·22) indicated that familial factors could not entirely explain the association between early alcohol use and later substance use, abuse and dependence.
Conclusions. Early regular drinking is associated with later alcohol dependence and use, abuse/dependence on drugs. The association is not entirely explained by genetic or shared family environmental factors. This suggests unique environmental factors contribute to transitions from early regular alcohol drinking to use, abuse and dependence on alcohol and other substances.
Methods of structural equation modelling were used to analyse the
reports of tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis use in a birth cohort of New
studied to the age of 16. This analysis produced three major conclusions:
(a) the correlations
between tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis use could be explained by a factor
individual's vulnerability to substance use; (b) predictors of vulnerability
to substance use
were the extent to which the individual affiliated with delinquent or substance
novelty seeking, and parental illicit drug use; (c) in the region of 54%
of the correlations
between substance use behaviours could be predicted from observed risk
factors and 46%
was attributable to non-observed sources of vulnerability.
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