Borderline Personality Traits and Substance Use: Genetic Factors Underlie the Association with Smoking and Ever Use of Cannabis, but Not with High Alcohol Consumption

M.A. Distel, T.J. Trull, M.H.M. de Moor, J.M. Vink, L.M. Geels, J.H.D.A. van Beek, M. Bartels, G. Willemsen, E. Thiery, C.A. Derom, M.C. Neale, D.I. Boomsma

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and substance use disorders often co-occur. Both disorders are heritable and family studies showed that there are familial factors that increase the risk for BPD as well as substance use/abuse. This is the first study that investigates whether the association of borderline personality traits (BPT) with substance use reflects an underlying genetic vulnerability or nongenetic familial influences. To this end we analyzed data of 5,638 Dutch and Belgian twins aged between 21-50 years from 3,567 families. Significant associations between BPT and high alcohol consumption (r =.192), regular smoking (r =.299), and ever use of cannabis (r =.254) were found. Bivariate genetic analyses showed that the associations of BPT and substance use had different etiologies. For regular smoking and for ever use of cannabis, the correlation with BPT was explained by common genetic factors. Interestingly, for high alcohol consumption and BPT the association was explained by unique environmental factors that influence both traits rather than common genetic factors. © 2012 The Guilford Press.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)867-879
JournalJournal of Personality Disorders
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012


Cite this