Objective:Adolescent-onset exposure to highly addictive substances such as opiates may induce far-reaching deleterious effects on later mental and physical health. However, little is known about the neurodevelopmental basis for adolescent-onset opiate dependence. Here we examined whether having an abnormally large cavum septum pellucidum (CSP), a putative marker of limbic structural maldevelopment, is associated with opiate dependence particularly beginning in adolescence.Method:The overall length of the CSP and the prevalence of abnormal enlargement of the CSP were assessed and compared in 65 opiate-dependent subjects (41 adolescent-onset opiate users and 24 adult-onset opiate users) and 67 healthy subjects.Results:Opiate-dependent subjects showed a greater prevalence of abnormal CSP enlargement relative to healthy subjects (odds ratio [OR]=3.64, p=0.034). The overall CSP length of adolescent-onset opiate-dependent subjects was greater, as compared not only with healthy subjects (F1,104=11.03, p=0.001) but also with those who began opiate use during adulthood (F1,61=4.43, p=0.039).Conclusions:The current findings provide the first evidence that abnormal CSP enlargement, which reflects limbic system dysgenesis of neurodevelopmental origin, may be linked to later development of opiate dependence. In addition, a greater CSP length, which indicates more severe limbic abnormalities, appears to confer higher risk for earlier onset of opiate use.