Objective: Genetic variation influences differential vulnerability to addiction within populations. However, it remains unclear whether differences in frequencies of vulnerability alleles contribute to disparities between populations and to what extent ancestry correlates with differential exposure to environmental risk factors, including poverty and trauma. Method: The authors used 186 ancestry-informative markers to measure African ancestry in 407 addicts and 457 comparison subjects self-identified as African Americans. The reference group was 1,051 individuals from the Human Genome Diversity Cell Line Panel, which includes 51 diverse populations representing most worldwide genetic diversity. Results: African Americans varied in degrees of African, European, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian genetic heritage. The overall level of African ancestry was actually smaller among cocaine, opiate, and alcohol addicts (proportion=0.76-0.78) than nonaddicted African American comparison subjects (proportion=0.81). African ancestry was associated with living in impoverished neighborhoods, a factor previously associated with risk. There was no association between African ancestry and exposure to childhood abuse or neglect, a factor that strongly predicted all types of addictions. Conclusions: These results suggest that African genetic heritage does not increase the likelihood of genetic risk for addictions. They highlight the complex interrelation between genetic ancestry and social, economic, and environmental conditions and the strong relation of those factors to addiction. Studies of epidemiological samples characterized for genetic ancestry and social, psychological, demographic, economic, cultural, and historical factors are needed to better disentangle the effects of genetic and environmental factors underlying interpopulation differences in vulnerability to addiction and other health disparities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health