The development of substance dependence requires the initiation of substance use and the conversion from experimental use to established use before development of dependence. Numerous large twin studies have indicated a significant genetic contribution to this process. Genetic studies to date have been most successful at identifying genetic factors that influence the transition from regular use to dependence. The availability of large cohort samples for nicotine and alcohol dependence has resulted in significant progress being made in understanding at least some of the genetic contributions to these addictions. Fewer studies have replicated specific genetic contributions to illicit drug use, though it is clear that there is a strong genetic component involved here as well. Substance dependence can be thought of as a pharmacogenetic illness, and most likely hundreds and more probably thousands of genetic variants will be required to fully explain the genetic input to this disease.
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