Evidence of Shared Genome-Wide Additive Genetic Effects on Interpersonal Trauma Exposure and Generalized Vulnerability to Drug Dependence in a Population of Substance Users

J Trauma Stress. 2016 Jun;29(3):197-204. doi: 10.1002/jts.22103. Epub 2016 May 23.


Exposure to traumatic experiences is associated with an increased risk for drug dependence and poorer response to substance abuse treatment (Claus & Kindleberger, 2002; Jaycox, Ebener, Damesek, & Becker, 2004). Despite this evidence, the reasons for the observed associations of trauma and the general tendency to be dependent upon drugs of abuse remain unclear. Data (N = 2,596) from the Study of Addiction: Genetics and Environment were used to analyze (a) the degree to which commonly occurring single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs; minor allele frequency > 1%) in the human genome explains exposure to interpersonal traumatic experiences, and (b) the extent to which additive genetic effects on trauma are shared with additive genetic effects on drug dependence. Our results suggested moderate additive genetic influences on interpersonal trauma, h(2) SNP-Interpersonal = .47, 95% confidence interval (CI) [.10, .85], that are partially shared with additive genetic effects on generalized vulnerability to drug dependence, h(2) SNP-DD = .36, 95% CI [.11, .61]; rG-SNP = .49, 95% CI [.02, .96]. Although the design/technique does not exclude the possibility that substance abuse causally increases risk for traumatic experiences (or vice versa), these findings raise the possibility that commonly occurring SNPs influence both the general tendency towards drug dependence and interpersonal trauma.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gene Frequency
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / genetics*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / genetics*