Typologies of illicit drug use in mid-adulthood: a quasi-longitudinal latent class analysis in a community-based sample of twins

Genevieve F. Dash*, Nicholas G. Martin, Arpana Agrawal, Michael T. Lynskey, Wendy S. Slutske

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: To identify drug use typologies based on substances used and persistence of use over two time points, use a genetically informed design to explore twin concordance of and genetic influence on the use typologies and compare patterns of declined/discontinued (“desistant”) and persistent drug use on drug use correlates. Design: Latent class analysis was applied to data from a cross-sectional self-report survey on current and past drug use. Use characteristics, use disorder, and psychiatric problems were compared across classes. Setting: Computer-assisted telephone interview in respondents' homes. Participants: A total of 3785 individual twins and siblings (1365 men, 2420 women; Mage = 32) from the Australian Twin Registry Cohort III. Measurements: A comprehensive interview assessed prior to past year and past year use of cannabis, stimulants, cocaine/crack, hallucinogens, opioids, sedatives, inhalants, dissociatives, and solvents; age of first use; opportunity to use; peer drug use; attention deficit/hyperactivity, conduct, antisocial personality, depressive, and substance use disorders; and suicidality. Findings: A five-class solution emerged: no/low use (50%), desistant cannabis use (23%), desistant party drug use (18%), persistent prescription drug misuse (4%), and persistent polydrug use (5%). Twin concordances were higher among monozygotic (k = 0.30–0.35) than dizygotic pairs (same-sex k = 0.19–0.20; opposite sex k = 0.07), and biometric modeling suggested that the persistent polydrug use class, in particular, was highly heritable (a2 = 0.94). Conduct disorder (OR = 2.40), antisocial personality disorder (OR = 3.27), and suicidal ideation (OR = 1.98) increased persistent polydrug use risk; depression (OR = 2.38) and lifetime suicide attempt (OR = 2.31) increased persistent prescription misuse risk. Relative to persistent prescription drug misuse, persistent polydrug use was associated with higher rates of cannabis and stimulant use disorder (OR = 6.14–28.01), younger first substance use (OR = 0.82–0.83), more drug use opportunity (OR = 10.66–66.06), and more drug-using peers (OR = 4.66–9.20). Conclusions: Unique patterns of declined/discontinued (“desistant”) and persistent drug use are differentially heritable and differentially associated with risk factors, psychiatric symptoms, and substance use disorder outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2020


  • Illicit drugs
  • latent class analysis
  • persistent drug use
  • polydrug use
  • quasi-longitudinal
  • twin study


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