Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Childhood Trauma and Future Addiction

The Link Between Early Childhood Trauma and Future Addiction

Many studies have shown, the roots of addiction and substance abuse often reach much deeper than most people assume, with traumatic early childhood abuse and family dysfunction laying the foundation for more troubling behavior later in life.

Vincent J. Felitti, MD, head of preventive medicine at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, has identified seven different categories of "adverse childhood experiences," including three categories of abuse and four categories of household dysfunction. The categories of abuse include verbal abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse. The categories of household dysfunction include the experience of living with a mentally ill family member.

For example, Jason was a 23-year-old with a bright future who turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with excessive childhood punishments and a scandalous break-up of his parent's marriage. Ben, 25, experienced a childhood filled with domestic violence, homelessness and isolation before eventually becoming a DXM addict. Lawrence, 34, was a successful owner of a chain of tanning salons who eventually turned to alcohol to dull the pain of emotional and physical abuse suffered in childhood.

This anecdotal evidence from "Intervention" is backed up by scientific and clinical studies showing that traumatic childhood experiences can lead to a higher risk of adult alcohol or substance addiction. Adult survivors of childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse are not only at increased risk for addiction, but they are increasingly more likely to suffer from a host of physical and mental health disorders, including depression, heart disease and obesity.

Doctors already realize that trauma survivors frequently smoke, drink, and overeat as a way to cope with their emotional turmoil. Now they are finding that the cases of early trauma may stunt the development of children's brains, leaving these children increasingly vulnerable to physical and mental disorders later in life.

The bottom line: parents need to take greater care to shelter their children from the risk of traumatic childhood experiences. They also need to be more tuned in to the moods of their children from a younger age to look for warning signs and be willing to take responsibility for helping children cope with their problems at an early age, which sometimes could mean professional counseling or treatment.

Excerpted from:

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children


Anonymous said...

Hi C--Thnaks for sharing the article. I can relate to experiencing childhood trauma. I still feel the anger about what should not have happened and there was no justification for it to occur. I need to remember the serenity prayer and accept that it happened, let go of the anger, but I don't have to forgive and I'll never forget it. It has helped me as a parent to remember the pain it caused, and still does from time to time. I'm proud to say I've raised my boys in a functional home and I've broken the cycle. They've had a normal childhood, which is something I didn't experience.

Anonymous said...

Thanks from me as well.

After I learned that my adult daughter is an alcoholic, I also found out that she was raped in college. She figured she could handle it herself and didn't tell anyone. Then some of the events of her childhood started to fit into the pattern, such as her uncle wearing a mask and hiding to frighten her (when she was 2-4 years old). Also, prior to her grandfather committing suicide, he corresponded with her telling her that he was planning to do it.

No wonder she's struggling now. The most irritating part is that she is stuck in the system that allows and helps her to continue struggling. The county van picks her up for classes, so her 'friends' are other alcoholics and drug addicts. She has no drivers license, no way to move from the area, no potential for better job. Five years of college and a degree in and up and coming field and she has to work in a restaurant.

Yes, it angers me. I know I can't 'fix' things for her but continue to encourage and support her.

sandi said...

I am an adult survivor of childhood trauma from sexual abuse/rape. I was raped at 4 years old and I do believe that I started self medicating to block the memories. I couldn't and still can't stand the constant replaying of the tape of the abuse through my head over and over every day.

Anonymous said...

I am now 57 years old. Suffered many years with Bipolar Disorder, depression--anxiety disorder and spent many years in counseling. Our dad was a very mean alcoholic, Mom was depressed. Many of you probably can relate. Our brother was the one who was abused by our dad. He has AHDD and very loving father and has a super wife. I try very hard to put it behind me but it's haunting in my feelings of trying to trust and so many factors. So, have put my energies in helping others and attempting to put my faith in God. Our folks have been gone many years and sorry to say at times glad that they are because they weren't healthy and we would have to take care of them. I'm blessed with a super husband but feel for him to sometimes have to put up with my moods which try to keep them under wraps. It's a daily challenge but we have to keep trucking on in life. All the best to all of you out there who had to go through anything.

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your shares and for taking the time to post them.

Anonymous said...

thankyou for your honesty everyone I am new to this site and am utterly gob smacked on how many others have my story I think this is going to be alot of help to me thankyou so much and God bless you all xxx