Study Confirms Trauma in Childhood Linked to Substance Abuse
A new study confirms that abuse and domestic violence in adolescence increase the chance of drug use in adulthood. A national sample of almost 10,000 US adolescents found psychological trauma, especially before the age of 11, can increase the likelihood of drug experimentation in adolescence. While psychologists have theorized this for quite some time, this is the first study to document this association in an American national sample of adolescents.
The national sample of 10,000 teenagers revealed that exposure to abuse and domestic violence increased chances of drug use. The research was led by Mailman School of Public Health post-doctoral fellow Hannah Carliner along with Associate Professor Silvia S. Martins, MD, Ph.D.
They found that the chances teens would try marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs (without a medical reason) were correlated to the childhood trauma they faced before the age of 11. The more traumatic experience they had, the more likely they used marijuana and other drugs.
“Abuse and domestic violence were particularly harmful to children, increasing the chances of all types of drug use in the adolescent years,” says Dr. Carliner. “We also found that trauma such as car accidents, natural disasters, and major illness in childhood increased the chances that teens would use marijuana, cocaine, and prescription drugs.”
Adolescents who had a parent who misused drugs were also more likely to use marijuana and other drugs following exposure to some form of childhood trauma.
“Parent substance misuse may increase access to drugs in the home, indicate a biological predisposition towards drug use, serve as a model for coping with stress, or indicate lack of parental involvement or neglect,” noted Dr. Martins. “Future research should identify which mechanisms may increase this risk in order to target interventions.”
Psychological trauma can occur to anyone, regardless of age, race or gender. Recently, we wrote an article about how PTSD is correlated to drug addiction. Childhood trauma can result in PTSD symptoms as an adult. Without treatment, these symptoms can exacerbate, and drug abuse can be used as a coping mechanism.
Childhood trauma is significantly more dangerous than adult trauma because it occurs in a time where the brain is still developing. Therefore, changes can occur in the brain as a result of the trauma that makes using drugs more appealing as a method of escape.
Statistics reveal that females are more likely to develop PTSD as a result of experiencing child abuse. Still there are many factors that determine if a child victim will develop PTSD. Regardless how the child is affected, all children are affected by childhood trauma. This is a something that needs to be addressed in the fight to prevent substance abuse.
This is far from the first time a correlation like this has been examined. Researchers at the University of Texas studied 32 teens, 19 of whom had been maltreated in childhood yet did not have a current psychiatric disorder. Researchers found that a major traumatic experience created specific changes in the brain that increased the chances of substance abuse disorders, depression and other mental illnesses in the child as teenagers.
Since the study was conducted in such a small number of children, the results were inconclusive. Now, that over 10,000 children have been examined; the results prove to be accurate.
Childhood trauma affects children as an adult in both physical and psychological ways. It is important for caretakers to monitor behaviors in children to ensure they are getting the proper care.
Traumatic childhood experiences represent significant risk factors in adulthood for:
- Severe Obesity
- Poor Self Esteem
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Autoimmune disorders
There are certainly more outcomes of childhood trauma. If you have endured any form of trauma in your life and stuff from addiction, these studies should show you that you are not alone. You need to get on the path to recovery today. Call now.
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