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Trauma During Childhood Increases Drug Addiction Risk

By talltom, Sep 4, 2012 | Updated: Sep 4, 2012 | | |
  1. talltom
    While prior research has suggested that signs of an increased risk of addiction are personality traits, such as impulsivity or compulsiveness, there is new evidence from the University of Cambridge suggesting that these characteristics are also associated with a traumatic childhood background.

    The goal of the research, which was published in the journal American Journal Pschiatry and led by Karen Ersche, was to discover the risk factors that make a person susceptible to developing drug dependence.

    Fifty adults with cocaine dependence, along with their biological siblings who never abused drugs, participated in the study by undergoing broad assessments of their personalities, including their ways of feeling and thinking.

    Subjects were also asked questions regarding any negative experiences they had during their upbringing, for example, any emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.

    Dr Ersche, of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI) at the University of Cambridge, explained:

    "It has long been known that abusive experiences during childhood have long-lasting effects on behavior in adulthood and this was confirmed by our results. The siblings had more troubled childhoods compared to healthy peers in the community, and we also found a direct relationship between traumatic childhoods and their personalities."

    What makes this relationship unusual, she continued, is that these impulsive personality traits are known to heighten the chance of becoming drug addicted, but that does not mean it excuses people for drug-taking.

    The team found that the brothers and sisters of the cocaine-addicted individuals had a traumatic childhood as well, exhibiting higher-than-average levels of impulsive and compulsive behaviors. However, they did not become addicted to any drugs.

    Learning how the drug-free siblings coped with their traumatic background and there highly impulsive and compulsive personalities is next on the scientists' agenda.

    They believe that by having a better understanding of the reason the siblings are resilient against drug abuse, they can help develop more beneficial therapeutic interventions for people fighting their addictions.

    Dr Ersche concluded:

    "Not all individuals with these personality traits would have had a traumatic upbringing. Nor does everyone with these traits develop an addiction. However, our findings show that some people are particularly at risk and their upbringing may have contributed to it."

    Sarah Glynn
    Medical News Today
    September 2, 2012



  1. source
    I think that the initial research result was pretty much well known anyway - and it's really the same as anything else. There are various reasons for drug abuse and addiction, and yes, trauma through childhood is the cause of a percentage.
    Just like trauma during your childhood can also lead to eating too much or eating too little, or anxiety, or depression, or other illnesses that could take me all day to list.

    The results of 'that' research should be interesting, might be an idea to keep an eye out for that so it can be posted here when published :thumbsup:
  2. missparkles
    When we, as adults, have a tough day, a day when we find it difficult to wind down, we might decide to take a drink to enable us to relax more quickly? The more stressful the day the greater the need might be to let go, change the way we feel, change our mood? As adults we make a conscious choice to do this. Children who are stressed out, as they might be if they're being abused in any way, won't/don't have this kinda option at their disposal, so they bury it deep in their subconscious, perhaps having a fantasy world they live in, rather than live with the reality of what's happening to them? Eventually they grow up and their options change, they now have something that enables them to let go of the fantasy world, something that numbs the pain they've lived with (perhaps for years) and allows them to connect with the real world, to an extent, without completely falling apart inside. Children have the propensity for surviving most traumas that might happen to them, but even they can only do it for so long. Whatever their DOC it allows them to forget, change, even re-invent the past so that its not as painful a memory.

    I know from my own childhood it felt like I was always an addict who was just waiting to be introduced to my DOC, heroin. Having said that, I was prescribed diazepam when I was 11 and that carried me through until I came into contact with more addictive drugs. Drugs for me were a survival tool. I recall my first dose of diazepam as if it were yesterday. As the effect kicked in I seemed to relax inside. And it wasn't until I felt this effect that I knew how tightly knotted my feelings were. As my body relaxed internally my brain was forgetting how fearful I'd always felt. Fearful of people, situations, what had happened, and more importantly what I knew was gonna happen to me one day, tomorrow, next week, next year, when ever, but I just knew something bad was gonna happen to me. It was in that instant everything in my head changed completely as I went from fearful to fearless. Heroin did all of this as well, but unlike diazepam there weren't such severe side effects. Side effects such as amnesia, mood swings and days of unconsciousness where I just slept and slept, to name just three. The feeling of relief that I experienced in that moment as the solution in the barrel went into my vein was one of such magnitude its impossible to describe. Anyone who has taken heroin will know exactly what I'm talking about.

    Heroin was my emotional soul mate. It understood me from the getgo, seemed to anticipate my needs before I became aware of them, and it loved me. It enabled me to "act as if" in any situation, and to do it with a phenomenal amount of confidence and self esteem. I could be whoever (or whatever) I wished to be, and do it with ease. But inside I still felt like a child, a child in dress up, clomping around in my mums "too big for me" shoes, play acting at being the adult, the grown up. But that was good enough for me cuz I was the only one who really knew how I felt inside. Would this have happened had I not been abused as a child? Perhaps. Its my belief that anyone who uses heroin and experiences this feeling could just as easily fall into the addiction trap, cuz as we all know addiction doesn't discriminate, it will ensnare rich or poor, clever or stupid, plain or beautiful, even class (upper) will provide no immunity to addiction. But maybe abused children have their emotions and mindset geared up to accept addiction as just one of the negative side effects of heroin use. On the other hand you have all of the positives that heroin provides, positives such as confidence, painlessness, and lack of guilt and shame. But most importantly acceptance. Acceptance of themselves, no longer feeling "not good enough" sometimes even feeling more competent than others to cope with life. Now if you weigh all of those perceived positives up against addiction to heroin it feels like (at the time) that you're getting an awesomely wonderful deal, its very possibly the first time in life that this has happened.

    Anyway, I'm sorry that I waffled on a little, its just that this topic, for obvious reasons, is quite dear to my heart. Thank you for being so patient. :)

  3. tired of chronic pain
    Without Prejuduce and only speaking from MY own experiences :)

    I too can relate to sparkles story,..somewhat.......maybe more so that I would rather not be able to remember but, sadly do along with many awful and unwanted flash backs that seem appear at the worst times.
    I just felt a need to add my two cents worth so to speak (if anyone was interested in hearing) because I was exposed to and suffered every kind of abuse you can think of (no word of a lie) but, once again,..... speaking for myself,.....I never grew up doing all kinds of drugs and or huge crime sprees that you hear all the time in the news how people were caught with drugs,....killing people etc. then blame it on their childhood and what they had to go through. Please, dont get me wrong, Im sure it does and has effected many but, I truly believe as you grow up, become adults you have the ability to make wiser choices. I truly believe that 'life IS what you make of it' and that you can choose the right path in life depending on how bad you want it. Like I said, I am and can only speak for myself and will admit, there was a time in my life when I had a 'dont give a f#%k attitude since no one seem to give a F#%k about me when I was a child and NEEDED protection, love, (the proper love) guidance, nutrition, etc. instead of having to not only go through many years of every kind of abuse you can think of but, surviving through it all also! I could have said F it and run wild blaming it all on everything I went through as a child but I choose to use all that abuse to help me make wise choices and try to make the best I could from then on. Im no angel by far, like I said, there was a time in my life that I was very rebelious and did not care about anyone or anything and that was also the time when I ran wild doing any drug I could thinking it was helping me kill that awful deep down pain I was left to deal with, that no one else could ever even try to understand unless they had to also endure. In reality the drugs just numbed the pain, never ever took it all away and when I came down it was ALL back on top of now feeling guilty of doing the drugs and taking a chance of ruining my life further now that I was classified being an adult and knowing no one can ever hurt me anymore UNLESS I ALLOWED it to happen. I was in charge of my life and only I am responsible for whatever I chose to do and no one else was but me!! I made myself a promise right then and there that I was going to try and make the best out of my life and "IF" I ever chose to have children that I would NEVER let my children live or go through ANY of what I was exposed to as a child. Even after saying all that, I have to admit, there are just some things you still have no choice or power to try and avoid such as the awful memories and flash backs but need to find a way to deal with them as they come. I also still suffer other kinds of 'damage' that has left permanent internal scars such as trust issues,....automatically raising your arms up in a defence when someone is just wanting to give u a hug, constantly waking up all hours the nite because you thought you heard someone in your room and, of course relationship issues. Im sure I ruin many chances to have a really good, loving relationships due to my insecurities or hitting a panic mode when you feel someone is getting 'too close' to you and they have breached your imaginary 'safe zone' that you created around you for yourself as you red zone/panic zone if crossed. Anyways,....I know I was a little scattered and prob. blabbed on too far but, I hope my post was helpful even if only to one person :)
    Have a wonderful evening :)
  4. missparkles
    Tired of chronic pain, or TOCP, as one abuse survivor to another I can really relate to your post, and I send you that hug that was so needed all those years ago, in the hope that it will make you feel more secure and safe today. I do understand what you're saying about taking back your power, cuz all of the time you remain a victim of your abuser/s they still have power over you, don't they? The thing is, for me, by the time I was old enough to take back that power my indoctrination into being fearful of everything and everyone was so complete I wasn't really aware of it. Because I took on that "victim" role so completely everyone, from teachers, kids at school and other adults tended to bully me in one way or another, even if that was by simply ignoring my pathetic situation. You see my abuser was also a complete bully to those around him, although to a much lesser extent my mum and siblings who were his biological kids. With other people it was more a case of "don't upset T*m as he may get angry." So he never really had to bully others to the same extent that he bullied and abused me, the consequences of upsetting him were implied.

    It wasn't until I could take no more that I fought back. I decided that I could die from my drug abuse or from fear if I told T*m just what I thought of him, either way something had got to change, I couldn't carry any more fear and the drugs didn't seem to numb the feelings as well as they once did. So I fought back. And the fear just seemed to disappear, and I was left with the most awesome feeling of power that I felt like I was able to accomplish anything. But when the feeling of power dissipated I was left with all of the raw emotion of it all. And this was where the hard work began. So many times it was so painful I wanted to go back to using, but like you I realised that I would just be giving back my power to every single person that had ever hurt me. So I can understand why people who try to deal with their abuse and don't quite manage it, feel. I have so much admiration for them for just trying, cuz I know how heart wrenchingly painful dealing with the issues that spring from childhood abuse, can be. And even today, fifteen years after my journey to rediscover my childhood, began, I still have days when things I thought I'd already dealt with, come back and kick my ass. I suppose I'll always be dealing with something from that period in my life. Today I can do it, at times I almost welcome the challenge, cuz I'm a survivor. And each challenge I overcome reminds me of that simple (but important) fact.

    Sparkles. :vibes:
  5. tired of chronic pain
    Thank you Miss Sparkles, for your kind ((hug)).
    Unfortunately, that is one of the many issues I have been left to try and deal with,.......letting anyone close to me physically or emotionally which, as I said before, has prob. caused me to miss out on ever enjoying a wonderful, loving, trusting relationship in my life. At times I would feel like I not worthy of the person I was with and they deserved better because Im too F'ed up from everything I was exposed to during those very young and tender years of life. I was never one for,......"Oh, why dont you go for theropy?"..... Ya, sure! Just what I need,.....sit in a room with some stranger who THINKS they know what I went through and THINKS by talking about it,......"getting it all out" will help........NOT!!! As if I want to go through that alllllll over again with someone who knows nothing about me but thinks they know what I went through because they spent so many years with their faces planted in books 'reading'
    I always felt that no one could ever really KNOW or relate unless they too had also (unfortunately) experienced the same.
    I still freeze up when people lean in to give me a simple hug and so much more. I doubt I will ever "get over it" like some people have said to me and I never thought I could ever feel true LOVE until I layed my eyes on my beautiful babies. Now, I know that kind of love is different from the kind of love you can share with a partner in life but, I feel sooooooo blessed to not only be able to give love but ALSO receive the special love and bond I share with my children,......THAT IS what gives me the strength and will to get through each and every day. I have had ALOT of things 'taken' from me that I will never be able to get back but, I am very happy to say that NO ONE can ever take away the special love and bond that my children and I share!! NO ONE!!! :)
  6. una_cavaletta
    I was in therapy for several years before I realised that I had experienced abuse as a child. I was diagnosed as something or other very young, and given mood stablisers. I could not control my temper and cried easily; bullies found an easy target. I spent most of my miserable childhood alternately snivelling and raging, feeling suicidal and powerless and the start of a new school year always brought dread. But when the school day ended, the biggest bully of all was at home.

    My dad I'm sure has some serious emotional health problems. He was always angry and shouting. Everything we did was wrong and disappointing. And he'd pick and pick and pick, until I burst into tears invoking further rage 'I should give you something to cry about, when I was your age my father would have taken the belt to me'.

    You couldn't win with my dad. For example, he spent a lot of time asleep. I now know that is a sign of depression. He would frequently ask me or my sisters to wake him in 20 minutes...but when you did, he'd snarl and grind his teeth and go back to sleep. Then, when he'd wake up (later than planned) I'd get shouted at again for not waking him up.

    My first pleasant drug experience - the antidepressants/mood stabilisers only made me drowsy - was oddly enough dramamine. I went through a phase of terrible carsickness. On the tablet the nausea disappeared and I was given this warm, safe, apart bubble of sleepiness, yet awake enough to enjoy it safeness. I came to enjoy them until they stopped working so well, and my carsickness seemed to pass.

    I've been looking for that protective bubble ever since. My bubble was alcohol for a long time. Now I fear it's just something else.
  7. MoonLitCrystal
    Has anyone ever watched the documentary Healing Neen? It is a very inspirational and educational piece about a woman (Tonier Caine) who experienced lots of trauma as a child. She wound up addicted to crack cocaine, homeless, and in & out of jail for close to 20 years. Today, however, she is a very successful motivational speaker; she travels around the world in order to bring hope to addicts & trauma victims everywhere.

    The documentary focused on Trauma-Informed Care, which basically acknowledges that many addicts/inmates have experienced some sort of trauma in their life and helps these victims deal with their traumas. From what I understand, this is a huge step forward; institutions used to simply give victims a pill in hopes that it would cure whatever was wrong with them.

    There is something called the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) Score, which really fascinated me. You are presented with 10 negative experiences; you get one point for each experience that happened to you before you were 18 years old. Add all of your points up at the end, and this is your ACE score! (My score was a 4.)

    Research says the larger your ACE score is, the more likely you are to see adverse effects (drug use, mental illness, etc.) I wish I could find that one bar chart for ya'll...it showed what percent more likely you are to abuse drugs at each ACE score, from 1 to 10.

    I hope my information helped. Please use the links that I gave you; they explain the concepts a hell of a lot better than I do! :)
  8. tired of chronic pain
    Hi M.L. Crysal,

    Thank you so much for sharing that information.
    I actually did the "Ace score" just for curiousity sake and my score was a 10!!! :( no wonder my life has been and still is so hard and F-ed up!!
    Im just not sure what if anything I should do from here,......Im still dumb founded (and embarrassed!!) to say the least. 0.0
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