Alcohol and cigarette smoking consumption as genetic proxies for alcohol misuse and nicotine dependence

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2021 Apr 1:221:108612. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108612. Epub 2021 Feb 15.


Purpose: To investigate the role of consumption phenotypes as genetic proxies for alcohol misuse and nicotine dependence.

Methods: We leveraged GWAS data from well-powered studies of consumption, alcohol misuse, and nicotine dependence phenotypes measured in individuals of European ancestry from the UK Biobank (UKB) and other population-based cohorts (largest total N = 263,954), and performed genetic correlations within a medical-center cohort, BioVU (N = 66,915). For alcohol, we used quantitative measures of consumption and misuse via AUDIT from UKB. For smoking, we used cigarettes per day from UKB and non-UKB cohorts comprising the GSCAN consortium, and nicotine dependence via ICD codes from UKB and Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence from non-UKB cohorts.

Results: In a large phenome-wide association study, we show that smoking consumption and dependence phenotypes show similar strongly negatively associations with a plethora of diseases, whereas alcohol consumption shows patterns of genetic association that diverge from those of alcohol misuse.

Conclusions: Our study suggests that cigarette smoking consumption, which can be easily measured in the general population, may be good a genetic proxy for nicotine dependence, whereas alcohol consumption is not a direct genetic proxy of alcohol misuse.

Keywords: Alcohol; Consumption; Dependence; Genetics; Nicotine; PheWAS; Polygenic analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics*
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Cigarette Smoking / epidemiology
  • Cigarette Smoking / genetics*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Female
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Tobacco Products / statistics & numerical data
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / genetics*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • White People / genetics