How Childhood Experience Impacts Substance Abuse

Every Kid in a Park! (22527582391)

A number of studies link childhood trauma to addictions in adulthood. Trauma disrupts brain structure and can make addiction more likely for those impacted.  In the Adverse Childhood Experience study by Kaiser Permanente and the CDC, researchers found that 17,000 patients who experienced trauma in childhood later had substance abuse and impulse control challenges.

How is Childhood Trauma Tied to Addiction?

In the study, two-thirds of addicts experienced child abuse, but there were also other stressful experiences tied to drug and alcohol abuse. These include losing a parent, witnessing domestic violence and living with a family member with mental illness. These events had a strong correlation with an increase in alcohol and drug dependency.

Here are the key reasons these experiences affect children so dramatically. Young children can’t fully process the inferences of traumatic events. Because they lack a frame of reference, they have a hard time processing what happened and the trauma lingers in their psyche. Normally, children would turn to family and loved ones to help them get through a hard time. When loved ones are responsible for the mental and physical anguish, this isn’t an option. That may be why victims of childhood trauma self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, it’s also common for children to model their parents’ behavior in adulthood.

If you or someone you love abuses drugs or alcohol as the result of childhood abuse and other trauma, you are not alone. Up to 67% of addicts experienced physical or sexual trauma as children. That’s why it’s so important to understand how vulnerable these individuals are. For those trying to help this group, the right support must be provided to help them recover from their unique experiences.

How Can Someone Break the Cycle?

Boys and girls encounter trauma and it impacts people of all ages. Knowledge is power – if you suspect that your friend or loved one has experienced childhood trauma that led to addiction, try to get them to seek the necessary help. During recovery, mental, emotional and spiritual therapy must address root causes as well as the overlying addiction. Seek comprehensive addiction treatment centers that offers a variety of treatment options, including support groups for those who suffered child abuse or individual counseling.


William Smith

LCDC, SAP, ADC, Admissions Director

William, better known as Billy around here is head of our admissions team. If you inquire about any of our treatment services, you will most likely speak with Billy in some capacity. Billy is one of the most passionate people when it comes down to recovery. You don’t have to have a long conversation to understand how much he cares about helping others. A recovered addict himself, he knows how miserable it is for those and their families who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction. He has been a part of Bay Area Recovery Center since 2008.

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