Associations between polygenic risk for psychiatric disorders and substance involvement

Caitlin E. Carey, Arpana Agrawal, Kathleen K. Bucholz, Sarah M. Hartz, Michael T. Lynskey, Elliot C. Nelson, Laura J. Bierut, Ryan Bogdan

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63 Scopus citations


Despite evidence of substantial comorbidity between psychiatric disorders and substance involvement, the extent to which common genetic factors contribute to their co-occurrence remains understudied. In the current study, we tested for associations between polygenic risk for psychiatric disorders and substance involvement (i.e., ranging from ever-use to severe dependence) among 2573 non-Hispanic European-American participants from the Study of Addiction: Genetics and Environment. Polygenic risk scores (PRS) for cross-disorder psychopathology (CROSS) were generated based on the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium's Cross-Disorder meta-analysis and then tested for associations with a factor representing general liability to alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, nicotine, and opioid involvement (GENSUB). Follow-up analyses evaluated specific associations between each of the five psychiatric disorders which comprised CROSS-attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (AUT), bipolar disorder (BIP), major depressive disorder (MDD), and schizophrenia (SCZ)-and involvement with each component substance included in GENSUB. CROSS PRS explained 1.10% of variance in GENSUB in our sample (p < 0.001). After correction for multiple testing in our follow-up analyses of polygenic risk for each individual disorder predicting involvement with each component substance, associations remained between: (A) MDD PRS and non-problem cannabis use, (B) MDD PRS and severe cocaine dependence, (C) SCZ PRS and non-problem cannabis use and severe cannabis dependence, and (D) SCZ PRS and severe cocaine dependence. These results suggest that shared covariance from common genetic variation contributes to psychiatric and substance involvement comorbidity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number149
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - Aug 15 2016


  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression
  • Polygenic
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance


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