September 22, 2022

Adverse Childhood Experiences and Addiction

Unfortunately, the consequences of adverse childhood experiences can lead to higher addiction rates, addiction-related crime, greater risk of going to prison, higher chance of early fatality and so much other damage. 

As members of the community, it is up to everyone to learn how to heal from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) as soon as possible, so we can prevent many of these issues. Not only that but healing ourselves will allow us to be in better relationships, improve the health of our society, reduce emotional distress and bring about better lives for us all. 

Studies from 2016 show that opioid addiction is linked to having 2 or more adverse childhood experiences. While there certainly are some people who only experience 1 ACE and others who experience far more, anyone can develop an addiction. It is important that now, during National Recovery Month, that we talk about how to overcome adverse childhood experiences and addiction.

What is an ACE?

An ACE is an adverse childhood experience. It happens before someone turns 18 years old. These can be one of the strongest predictors of a future addiction or mental health disorders. There are numerous childhood experiences that children should never have to go through that can be traumatic for them including:

    • Parental divorce
  • Alcoholic or addicted parent
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual abuse
  • Parent going to prison or jail
  • Parental mental health illness
  • Physical abuse
  • Neglect
  • Verbal abuse
  • Substance use within the family unit

Anything traumatic that happens to a child under the age of 18 that takes a negative toll on their physical and/or mental health could be considered an adverse childhood experience. 

More Statistics Regarding Adverse Childhood Experiences

While this was awhile ago, it is a good study to note – between the years of 1995 and 1997, Kaiser Permanente (a care consortium) did a study of 17,000 Southern Californians. The study proved there was a connection between ACEs and physical/mental health later in life. During this study, there were 3 areas to consider – neglect, household challenges and abuse. 

Thousands of these children were traumatized due to physical and/or emotional neglect. When children aren’t supported emotionally or they are ignored, that is emotional neglect. When they are not clothed, fed or don’t have their physical needs taken care of, that is physical neglect. 

Household challenges was another type of ACE considered in this study. These happen when there are household circumstances such as mental illness, substance abuse in the family, domestic violence between family members, divorce or other difficult familial circumstances.

Abuse can be physical, emotional or sexual. Every type of abuse can lead to severe mental health issues and/or an addiction. Physical abuse is when someone grabs, slaps, hits or otherwise physically harms that child. Emotional abuse is when someone puts down the child, makes them feel threatened or puts fear in the child. Sexual abuse is when anyone touches the child in an inappropriate sexual way. 

Measuring ACEs

In addition to Kaiser Permanente, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) measure the extent of adverse childhood experiences. In the study noted above the following results were found:

  • 5% experienced 4 ACEs or more 
  • 5% had experienced 3 ACEs
  • 9% experienced 2 ACEs
  • 26% had experienced 1 ACE

This adds up to a total of 45% of the people in the study had experienced at least one adverse childhood traumatic experience. 

Adverse Childhood Experiences and Addiction – What is the Prediction?

Addiction is often the response someone has to painful memories and/or emotions. For this reason, there is a clear connection between adverse childhood experiences and addiction. Most people who are abusing alcohol and/or drugs compulsively are doing so to hide from their emotions, isolate from their memories or to be in denial about what they have experienced. 

Many studies show that at least 80% of those who have an alcohol use disorder had at least 1 adverse childhood experience. Other studies found that adverse childhood experiences led to a range of complex mental and physical health illnesses such as:

  • Addiction
  • Depression
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Diabetes
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Obesity

As you can see, adverse childhood experiences can negatively impact a person’s future in numerous ways. It isn’t just their childhood that is affected. Without treatment, these experiences can affect them for many more years to come. In some cases of those who don’t get treatment, the memories and issues from those experiences never go away or heal. 

Treatment Options for ACEs and Addiction

Have you gone through adverse childhood experiences? Are you ready to start the healing process? If so, there are many different treatment options for ACEs and addiction such as medication-assisted treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy.

adverse childhood experiences

Receiving Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment is the main option for those who struggle with an addiction. Generally, the medications prescribed during this treatment are combined with individual and group therapy to better help the person heal. It is possible to manage your troublesome emotions, thoughts and behaviors when combining these treatments.

Some of the reasons that medications are prescribed are to relieve anxiety, manage PTSD, ease stress, relax the mind and body and to help the person overcome obsessive-compulsive issues.

Going to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a science-backed treatment that we use here at Desert Rose to treat many psychological issues ranging from PTSD to borderline personality disorder to depression.  

This type of treatment works by having a therapist spend time with the patient assessing and examining their history in childhood and later in life. Any adverse childhood experiences are noted and reactions to those experiences are kept in mind, too. The information gathered during these initial or later sessions will be used to help develop a recovery plan, so the patient can learn how to change their thought patterns, overcome certain behaviors and develop the best coping techniques possible. All these tools will help them to heal from the ACEs, as well. 

Desert Rose Has Treatments for You

Do you or someone you know struggle with adverse childhood experiences and addiction? If so, we want you to think about your future. Do you want to live your best life, not let thoughts keep taking over your life, ease your fears and develop healthier relationships with yourself and those around you? If so, Desert Rose has treatments for you. 

Contact us today to get treatment for adverse childhood experiences and addiction. We are looking forward to helping you begin the healing process and get your life back on the track you want it to be.

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