Recent studies indicate a strong association between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and nicotine dependence (ND). However, the explanation for the association remains unclear.
To test competing explanations for the association between PTSD and ND.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Analysis of data on 6744 members of the Vietnam Era Twin Registry, a national registry of all male-male twin pairs who served in the military during the Vietnam era interviewed in 1991-1992.
Main Outcome Measures
Risk of PTSD and ND using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for the DSM-III-R.
The prevalence of ND was elevated among trauma-exposed individuals (52.0%) and those with PTSD (71.7%) compared with unexposed individuals (40.5%). This association was significant for ND and for trauma without PTSD (odds ratio, 1.31; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.18-1.45) and for PTSD (odds ratio, 2.34; 95% CI, 1.92-2.84) and was not entirely explained by shared risk factors. Shared genetic effects explained 63% of the PTSD-ND association; the remaining covariance was explained by individual-specific environmental effects. Using survival analysis with time-dependent covariates, ND was associated with a substantially increased risk of PTSD among trauma-exposed men (hazard ratio, 1.98; 95% CI, 1.61-2.42). Trauma (hazard ratio, 1.49; 95% CI, 1.35-1.64) and PTSD (hazard ratio, 1.36; 95% CI, 1.14-1.61) were less strongly but significantly associated with increased risk of ND onset after controlling for shared risk factors.
Most of the PTSD-ND association is explained by shared genetic effects. However, there is a substantial, robust PTSD-ND association not explained by shared risk factors. Multiple explanations for the association were supported; however, the strongest association was consistent with preexisting ND increasing the risk of PTSD onset. These data suggest that male veterans with a history of ND may be at increased risk for PTSD. Further research on the biological mechanisms underlying PTSD-ND comorbidity is needed.