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Emerging adulthood is a peak period of risk for alcohol and illicit drug use. Recent advances in psychiatric genetics suggest that the co-occurrence of substance use and psychopathology arises, in part, from a shared genetic etiology. We sought to extend this research by investigating the influence of genetic risk for schizophrenia on trajectories of four substance use behaviors as they occurred across emerging adulthood.
Young adult participants of non-Hispanic European descent provided DNA samples and completed daily reports of substance use for 1 month per year across 4 years (N = 30 085 observations of N = 342 participants). A schizophrenia polygenic score was included in two-level hierarchical linear models designed to test associations between genetic risk for schizophrenia, participant age, and four substance use phenotypes.
Participants with a greater schizophrenia polygenic score experienced greater age-related increases in the likelihood of using substances across emerging adulthood (p < 0.005). Additionally, our results suggest that the polygenic score was positively associated with participants’ overall likelihood to engage in illicit drug use but not alcohol-related substance use.
This study used a novel combination of polygenic prediction and intensive longitudinal methods to characterize the influence of genetic risk for schizophrenia on patterns of age-related change in substance use across emerging adulthood. Results suggest that genetic risk for schizophrenia has developmentally specific effects on substance use behaviors in a non-clinical population of young adults.
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