Environmental factors selectively impact co-occurrence of problem/pathological gambling with specific drug-use disorders in male twins


Aims: Multiple forms of drug abuse/dependence frequently co-occur with problem/pathological gambling (PPG). The current study examines the extent to which genetic and environmental factors contribute to their co-occurrence. Design: Bivariate models investigated the magnitude and correlation of genetic and environmental contributions to problem/pathological gambling and its co-occurrence with nicotine dependence, cannabis abuse/dependence and stimulant abuse/dependence. Setting: Computer-assisted telephone interviews in the community. Participants: Participants were 7869 male twins in the Vietnam Era Twin Registry, a USA-based national twin registry. Measurements: Life-time DSM-III-R diagnoses for problem/pathological gambling, nicotine dependence, cannabis abuse/dependence and stimulant abuse/dependence were determined using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule. Findings: All drug-use disorders displayed additive genetic and non-shared environmental contributions, with cannabis abuse/dependence also displaying shared environmental contributions. Both genetic [genetic correlation rA = 0.22; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.10-0.34] and non-shared environmental components (environmental correlation rE = 0.24; 95% CI = 0.10-0.37) contributed to the co-occurrence of problem/pathological gambling and nicotine dependence. This pattern was shared by cannabis abuse/dependence (rA = 0.32; 95% CI = 0.05-1.0; rE = 0.36; 95% CI = 0.16-0.55) but not stimulant abuse/dependence (SAD), which showed only genetic contributions to the co-occurrence with problem/pathological gambling (rA = 0.58; 95% CI = 0.45-0.73). Conclusions: Strong links between gambling and stimulant-use disorders may relate to the neurochemical properties of stimulants or the illicit nature of using 'hard' drugs such as cocaine. The greater contribution of environmental factors to the co-occurrence between problem/pathological gambling and 'softer' forms of drug abuse/dependence (cannabis, tobacco) suggest that environmental interventions (perhaps relating to availability and legality) may help to diminish the relationship between problem/pathological gambling and tobacco- and cannabis-use disorders.

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