Substance dependence disorders are chronic relapsing disorders with immense societal consequences. Twin and family studies have found that there are critical genetic and environmental components in the inheritance of substance use disorders, and modern advances in genetics are making it possible to identify specific variants that may predispose an individual to these disorders. Adolescence is a crucial period for initiation, experimentation, and the establishment of more regular patterns of use of alcohol and other drugs. Adolescent substance use is a known risk factor for the development of later alcohol and substance use problems, as well as related externalizing disorders such as antisocial personality disorder. Understanding the early risk factors and processes that make these youths vulnerable to substance use disorders is crucial to the development of effective strategies for prevention. This article reviews the genetic origins of adolescent substance use problems and the potential this field of research offers for prevention.
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