Behavior Genetics

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 109–124 | Cite as

The Speed of Progression to Tobacco and Alcohol Dependence: A Twin Study

  • Spencer B. HuggettEmail author
  • Alexander S. Hatoum
  • John K. Hewitt
  • Michael C. Stallings
Original Research


We investigated the etiological role of genetic and environmental influences for two milestones of tobacco and alcohol use: age of initiation, and speed of progression to dependence (latency). Study participants included 1352 monozygotic and 1422 dizygotic twins (mean age at assessment = 24.31). Earlier ages of initiation significantly increased the likelihood of developing dependence, but were associated with longer dependence latencies for tobacco and alcohol. Latencies to dependence were heritable traits for tobacco (a2 = 0.63) and alcohol (a2 = 0.64). Genetic influences contributing to early age of initiation were associated with faster latencies to dependence but sometimes were counteracted by environmental factors, the extent to which depended on substance and, sometimes, sex. Our findings may have important implications for public policy and add to the literature by characterizing the genetic and environmental contributions to the speed of progression to tobacco and alcohol dependence.


Tobacco Alcohol Twins Genetics Age of initiation Dependence 



Special thanks to study participants and the Institute for Behavioral Genetics interview staff. Supported in part by: NIDA P60 DA11015.


This research was supported by National Institute of Health Grants DA017637, DA011015, DA035804 and DA15522.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Dr. John Hewitt is an author on this paper, and is also the editor of the journal. Spencer B. Huggett, Alexander S. Hatoum and Michael C. Stallings declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures of this study followed the ethical standards of the University of Colorado Institutional Review Board.

Human and Animal Rights

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent or parental permission was obtained from each subject at each assessment time point.

Supplementary material

10519_2018_9888_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1022 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1021 KB)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Behavioral GeneticsUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA

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