Candidate gene-environment interactions in substance abuse : A systematic review

Zheng JIANG, Zidong CHEN, Xi CHEN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


The abuse of psychogenic drugs can lead to multiple health-related problems. Genetic and environmental vulnerabilities are factors in the emergence of substance use disorders. Empirical evidence regarding the gene–environment interaction in substance use is mixed. Summaries of the latest findings from a candidate gene approach will be useful for revealing the significance of particular gene contributions. Thus, we aim to identify different gene–environment interactions in patterns of substance use and investigate whether any effects trend notably across different genders and races.

We reviewed published studies, until March 1, 2022, on substance use for candidate gene–environment interaction. Basic demographics of the included studies, target genes, environmental factors, main findings, patterns of gene–environment interaction, and other relevant information were collected and summarized.

Among a total of 44 studies, 38 demonstrated at least one significant interaction effect. About 61.5% of studies on the 5-HTTLPR gene, 100% on the MAOA gene, 42.9% on the DRD2 gene, 50% on the DRD4 gene, 50% on the DAT gene, 80% on the CRHR1 gene, 100% on the OPRM1 gene, 100% on the GABRA1 gene, and 50% on the CHRNA gene had a significant gene–environment interaction effect. The diathesis–stress model represents a dominant interaction pattern (89.5%) in the studies with a significant interaction effect; the remaining significant effect on substance use is found in the differential susceptibility model. The social push and swing model were not reported in the included studies.

The gene–environment interaction research on substance use behavior is methodologically multidimensional, which causes difficulty in conducting pooled analysis, or stated differently–making it hard to identify single sources of significant influence over maladaptive patterns of drug taking. In decreasing the heterogeneity and facilitating future pooled analysis, researchers must (1) replicate the existing studies with consistent study designs and measures, (2) conduct power calculations to report gene–environment correlations, (3) control for covariates, and (4) generate theory-based hypotheses with factorial based experiments when designing future studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0287446
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2023

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Copyright: © 2023 Jiang et al.


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