Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2003 Oct;27(6):507-15
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Center for Education and Drug Abuse Research, University of Pittsburgh, 707 Salk Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.
Variation in the risk for and severity of substance use disorders (SUD) in the population is caused by multiple organismic (genetic, biochemical, psychological) and environmental factors. Whereas drug- or drug-class-specific liability mechanisms exist, a substantial proportion of variance in the risk is shared between specific liabilities, reflecting mechanisms that determine common liability to SUD. Data from epidemiologic, clinical, psychological, physiological, biochemical, and family and genetic studies reviewed in this paper indicate the existence of mechanisms and characteristics shared in common by liabilities to SUD related to different drugs. These mechanisms can be conceptualized as common liability to SUD, a latent trait accounting for a substantial portion of variation in SUD risk and severity and determined by all factors influencing the probability of SUD development. An accompanying paper describes an approach to the quantitative estimation of this trait.