Is there a correlation between childhood trauma and addiction in adulthood?

Is there a correlation between childhood trauma and addiction in adulthood?

August 26, 2021

Is there a correlation between childhood trauma and addiction in adulthood?

Mental Health

Our childhood experiences lay the foundation of our adulthood. During childhood ,our minds are quite impressionable, so any good or bad experience, it simply impacts our personality and mental well-being as we transition into adulthood.

Similarly, there is a strong connection between childhood trauma and substance abuse in later years. Many studies suggest that childhood trauma can trigger numerous mental illnesses in adulthood and eventually as an adult a person might develop dependency on substances like alcohol, drugs or opioids. According to statistics provided by the National Institute of Health (NIH), one third of the population enduring childhood trauma are prone to develop substance abuse disorder till they reach the age of 18. This is also confirmed by a study published in the Times Magazine that says nearly 60 percent people grappling with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develop substance abuse disorder.

What is Trauma?

Trauma can be defined as any unpropitious, adverse and malignant event that has the potential to cause emotional, physical and psychological damage. The malicious circumstances or event could have occurred single time or multiple times.

Trauma can include a broad spectrum of events such as:

  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Domestic violence
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Repeated bullying
  • Intense verbal and physical abuse
  • Natural disaster
  • Accident
  • Terminal or prolonged illness
  • Parental neglect

The psychological and behavioral symptoms of trauma can include:

  • Irritability
  • Prolonged Agitation
  • Sudden and sharp changes in mood and behavior
  • Avoiding situation and things that remind of trauma
  • Anxiousness
  • Fear
  • Lack of confidence
  • Flashback and reliving the traumatic event
  • Overwhelming emotions

The traumatic incident, taking root during childhood can have an adverse effect on the quality of life during adulthood. It can impact broader areas in our life such as:

  • Create problems in professional life
  • Create problem in romantic and social relationships
  • Lead to trust issue in relationships
  • Develop eating disorder
  • Lead to binge drinking
  • Bulimia and anorexia

The most well known study so far on childhood trauma is Adverse Childhood Experience Survey. The study evinced that childhood malicious experiences or trauma is directly linked to formation of the brain. The study suggested that majority of the children who faced a traumatic situation are likely to develop substance abuse disorder in their adolescence or adulthood.

Traumatic incidents during childhood lead to mental health disorder and eventually substance abuse or addiction as a defense mechanism to numb the pain or overwhelming emotion due to the mental struggle within. It is evident that people develop crippling alcohol addiction in a craving for social acceptance, smoke marijuana to escape from reality or start taking painkillers or heroin to avoid painful memory of the abuse entrenched in their memories.

Some children crave for acceptance, stability, love and care from the society. When they are deprived of that, their basic care and support, they swerve towards addiction or substance abuse to make up for the vacuum inside.  Some children might even inflict self-harm and exhibit suicidal behavior, which makes early intervention imperative.

Another study conducted by researchers of Columbia University and published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol dependency suggests that domestic violence during childhood is likely to increase substance dependency by three folds during adulthood.

The idea of a relation between childhood trauma and addiction during adulthood is further augmented by data from the Department of Health and Human Service, suggesting that nearly 60 thousand children are sexually abused in United States each year and they are likely to develop criminal personality as adults.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) released a report saying that nearly two-third of the people abusing drugs were subjected to neglect during childhood.

What are the treatment options available for  addiction triggered by childhood trauma?

The treatment programs should include dual diagnosis, including detoxification under medical supervision, medication combined with psychotherapies like talk therapy, family therapy, group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and habit reversal training.

How we can help?

Parents of traumatized children can have a hard time understanding their behavioral pattern and the extent of the trauma. If you suspect that your child is going through a difficult phase and want to seek professional help, please contact Invictus health group at our 24/7 toll free number 866-548-0190 to know more about treatment programs available in your area. We can connect you to our best partner treatment centers in California for a long-term recovery.

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