A Twin Study of Personality and Illicit Drug Use and Abuse/Dependence

Arpana Agrawal, K. C. Jacobson, C. A. Prescott, Kenneth S. Kendler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Although personality measures such as neuroticism (N), extraversion (E) and novelty-seeking (NS) are associated with the use and abuse/dependence of illicit drugs, little is known about the degree to which these associations are due to genetic or environmental factors. The goal of this analysis was to estimate the extent of genetic and environmental overlap between three dimensions of personality (N, E and NS) and illicit psychoactive substance use and abuse/dependence. Using data from adult male and female twins from the Mid-Atlantic Twin Registry, we used the structural equation modeling package Mx to perform bivariate Cholesky decompositions for personality measures of N, E and NS, individually with cannabis, cocaine, sedatives, stimulants and hallucinogens. This was done separately for use and for a polychotomous diagnosis of abuse and/or dependence. Sex differences were tested. The phenotypic relationship between personality and use and abuse/dependence of illicit drugs were moderate and most of the covariance was explained by genetic factors. Sexes could be equated for N and E but not for NS. For NS, use and abuse/dependence of illicit drugs showed greater phenotypic and genetic overlap in males than females. Of the personality measures, NS and illicit drug use and abuse/dependence were most closely related. NS was most closely related to cannabis use while N showed significant genetic overlap with sedative use. NS in males appears to be a good indicator of risk for cannabis use. This result may be useful for candidate gene studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-81
Number of pages10
JournalTwin Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004


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