Download Full Text (793 KB)


Recent studies have shown that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the GABRA2 gene may influence one’s susceptibility to illicit drug use. In order to determine whether an association is present in young adults, we will be performing a study within the Spit for Science research project at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. The Spit for Science project aims to understand how genetic and environmental factors come together to influence substance use and emotional health. A cohort of 1523 incoming freshman donated a saliva sample in the fall of 2011 and answered surveys regarding their use of the following categories of drugs: cannabis, sedatives, stimulants, cocaine, or opioids. Follow-up surveys were given during the spring of their freshman year and the spring of their sophomore year. Data on drug abuse was converted to a numerical score between zero and five, depending on how many of the five categories of drugs the respondent had ever tried. We will also be using survey responses to measure the moderating variable of peer deviance. The saliva samples were processed and genotyped for 8 SNPs in the GABRA2 gene. Specific associations will be determined through use of regression analysis. It is hypothesized that the study will show an association between GABRA2 SNPs, illicit drug use, and the additional influence of peer deviance. These findings can be used to improve strategies that aim to decrease drug use among college students and allow them to successfully recover.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)

Biology, Psychology

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Danielle Dick

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Amy Adkins


Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

Is Part Of

VCU Undergraduate Research Posters


© The Author(s)

GABRA2, Peer Deviance and Illicit Drug Use in College-Aged Students