An Australian twin study of cannabis and other illicit drug use and misuse, and other psychopathology

Michael T. Lynskey, Arpana Agrawal, Anjali Henders, Elliot C. Nelson, Pamela A.F. Madden, Nicholas G. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


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 (h 2 = 72%), early (≤16 years) onset use (h 2 = 80%), using cannabis 11+ times lifetime (h 2 = 76%), and DSM abuse/dependence (h 2 = 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-641
Number of pages11
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Cannabis
  • Comorbidity
  • Illicit drugs
  • twin


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