Cannabis involvement and nonsuicidal self-injury: A discordant twin approach

Lauren R. Few, Julia D. Grant, Elliot C. Nelson, Timothy J. Trull, Richard A. Grucza, Kathleen K. Bucholz, Karin J.H. Verweij, Nicholas G. Martin, Dixie J. Statham, Pamela A.F. Madden, Andrew C. Heath, Michael T. Lynskey, Arpana Agrawal

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11 Scopus citations


Objective: Cannabis use, particularly at an early age, has been linked to suicidal thoughts and behavior, but minimal work has examined the association between cannabis use and lifetime nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). The current study aims to characterize the overlap between lifetime and early cannabis use and NSSI and to examine genetic and environmental mechanisms of this association. Method: Adult male and female twins from the Australian Twin Registry (N = 9,583) were used to examine the odds of NSSI associated with lifetime cannabis use and early cannabis use (i.e., <17 years of age). These associations were also examined within monozygotic (MZ) twins discordant for cannabis use and MZ twins discordant for early cannabis use. Analyses were replicated in an independent sample of female twins (n = 3,787) accounting for the age at onset of cannabis use and NSSI. Results: Lifetime cannabis use (odds ratio [OR] = 2.84, 95% CI [2.23, 3.61]) and early cannabis use were associated with increased odds of NSSI (OR = 2.15, 95% CI [1.75, 2.65]), and this association remained when accounting for covariates. The association was only significant, however, in MZ twin pairs discordant for early cannabis use (OR = 3.20, 95% CI [1.17, 8.73]). Replication analyses accounting for the temporal ordering of cannabis use and NSSI yielded similar findings of nominal significance. Conclusions: Results suggest that NSSI is associated with cannabis involvement via differing mechanisms. For lifetime cannabis use, the lack of association in discordant pairs suggests the role of shared genes and family environment. However, in addition to such shared familial influences, person-specific and putatively causal factors contribute to the relationship between early cannabis use and NSSI. Therefore, delaying the onset of cannabis use may reduce exposure to influences that exacerbate vulnerabilities to NSSI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-880
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2016


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