Associations between polygenic risk for tobacco and alcohol use and liability to tobacco and alcohol use, and psychiatric disorders in an independent sample of 13,999 Australian adults. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Substance use, substance use disorders (SUDs), and psychiatric disorders commonly co-occur. Genetic risk common to these complex traits is an important explanation; however, little is known about how polygenic risk for tobacco or alcohol use overlaps the genetic risk for the comorbid SUDs and psychiatric disorders. METHODS: We constructed polygenic risk scores (PRSs) using GWAS meta-analysis summary statistics from a large discovery sample, GWAS & Sequencing Consortium of Alcohol and Nicotine use (GSCAN), for smoking initiation (SI; N=631,564), age of initiating regular smoking (AI; N=258,251), cigarettes per day (CPD; N=258,999), smoking cessation (SC; N=312,273), and drinks per week (DPW; N=527,402). We then estimated the fixed effect of these PRSs on the liability to 15 phenotypes related to tobacco and alcohol use, substance use disorders, and psychiatric disorders in an independent target sample of Australian adults. RESULTS: After adjusting for multiple testing, 10 of 75 combinations of discovery and target phenotypes remained significant. PRS-SI (R2 range: 1.98%-5.09 %) was positively associated with SI, DPW, and with DSM-IV and FTND nicotine dependence, and conduct disorder. PRS-AI (R2: 3.91 %) negatively associated with DPW. PRS-CPD (R2: 1.56 %-1.77 %) positively associated with DSM-IV nicotine dependence and conduct disorder. PRS-DPW (R2: 3.39 %-6.26 %) positively associated with only DPW. The variation of DPW was significantly influenced by sex*PRS-SI, sex*PRS-AI and sex*PRS-DPW. Such interaction effect was not detected in the other 14 phenotypes. CONCLUSIONS: Polygenic risks associated with tobacco use are also associated with liability to alcohol consumption, nicotine dependence, and conduct disorder.

published proceedings

  • Drug Alcohol Depend

author list (cited authors)

  • Chang, L., Whitfield, J. B., Liu, M., Medland, S. E., Hickie, I. B., Martin, N. G., ... GSCAN Consortium.

complete list of authors

  • Chang, Lun-Hsien||Whitfield, John B||Liu, Mengzhen||Medland, Sarah E||Hickie, Ian B||Martin, Nicholas G||Verhulst, Brad||Heath, Andrew C||Madden, Pamela A||Statham, Dixie J||Gillespie, Nathan A

publication date

  • January 2019