We examined the variation and heritability of DSM-IV nicotine withdrawal (NW) in adult and adolescent male and female twin cigarette smokers (who reported smoking 100 or more cigarettes lifetime). Telephone diagnostic interviews were completed with 3,112 Australian adult male and female smokers (53% women; age: 24–36) and 702 Missouri adolescent male and female smokers (59% girls; age: 15–21). No gender or cohort differences emerged in rates of meeting criteria for NW (44%). Latent class analyses found that NW symptoms were best conceptualized as a severity continuum (three levels in adults and two levels in adolescents). Across all groups, increasing NW severity was associated with difficulty quitting, impairment following cessation, heavy smoking, depression, anxiety, conduct disorder and problems with alcohol use. NW was also associated with seeking smoking cessation treatment and with smoking persistence in adults. The latent class structure of NW was equally heritable across adult and adolescent smokers with additive genetic influences accounting for 49% of the variance and the remaining 51% of variance accounted for by unique environmental influences. Overall, findings suggest remarkable similarity in the pattern and heritability of NW across adult and adolescent smokers, and highlight the important role of NW in psychiatric comorbidity and the process of smoking cessation across both age groups.
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