The Impact of ACEs and Addiction

The Impact of ACEs and Addiction

When discussing addiction, many contributing factors can increase a person’s risk of developing a substance abuse disorder. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are one of them. These experiences are strongly related to a person’s development and impact their life. This can include the prevalence of substance abuse. As we explore the link between ACEs and addiction, we’ll look at different types of ACEs, ACEs and addiction statistics, and how getting addiction treatmentcan help.

What are ACEs?

ACEs or adverse childhood experiences are stressful events that can disrupt a child’s neurodevelopment. [1] This can impact a child’s cognitive functioning and the ability to cope with negative or disruptive emotions, leading to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance use.

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Types of ACEs

Adverse childhood experiences can include physical, verbal, and sexual abuse and other negative experiences. When discussing ACEs, it’s essential to look at the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. It is one of the most extensive investigations of childhood abuse and how they impact people later in life. [2]

The study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1996 with two data collection sets. More than 17,000 HMO members from Southern California completed the study regarding ACEs and current health.

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The study measured ten types of childhood trauma. These are:

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Verbal abuse
  3. Sexual abuse
  4. Physical neglect
  5. Emotional neglect
  6. Having a parent who is an alcoholic
  7. Having a mother who is the victim of domestic violence
  8. Having a family member in jail
  9. Having a family member diagnosed with a mental illness
  10. Experiencing the divorce of parents

The study returned some interesting findings. For example, it found: [2]

  • 28% of those who participated reported physical abuse
  • 21% reported sexual abuse
  • Many reported having divorced parents or having a parent with a mental and/or substance abuse disorder.

Researchers followed participants over time and found that a person’s exposure to ACEs has a strong relationship to many health and social problems, including substance use disorders.

Other Adverse Experiences That Can Increase the Risks of Poor Health Outcomes

Besides the ten types of childhood trauma measured in the study above, researchers also examine how other adverse experiences can increase poor health conditions.

These include:

  • Bullying
  • Racism
  • Witnesses violence outside the home
  • Homelessness
  • Moving repeatedly
  • Involvement with the criminal justice system

It’s important to recognize these traumas and how they can impact people as they grow older.

Preventing Trauma

One of the best ways to address trauma in adults is to work to prevent ACEs from occurring at all. The CDC offers ACEs training for parents and families to help them understand and reduce the experiences children are having.

Despite all efforts, ACEs sadly can not be prevented. This is why building resilience is important to help survivors. This can help them avoid the negative consequences that can come with ACEs.

  • Building resilience can be done by:
  • Having supporting relationships with adults during childhood
  • Having a trusted friend to confide in
  • Seeking therapy

Working to prevent trauma and helping to build resilience can help to prevent children from developing a substance abuse disorder.

ACEs and Addiction Statistics

Researchers studying the correlation between ACEs and substance use have made some noteworthy findings. [1]

  • Strong, graded relationship between ACEs and the early use of alcohol
  • Higher risk of mental and substance use disorders in adults ages 50 and over
  • Continued tobacco use during adulthood
  • Prescription drug use
  • Lifetime illicit drug use, drug dependency, and self-reported addiction

One study has also shown the risk of illegal drug use early in life increased 2-4-fold with each adverse childhood experience. [3]

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Other studies have shown that people with five or more adverse childhood events were 7-10 times more likely to report illicit drug use and addiction. [4] ACEs also contributed to an earlier onset of substance use, with each category of adverse experience associated with an elevated risk of illicit drug use before age 14.

ACEs and Behavioral Problems

It’s also important to look at how ACEs can lead to behavioral problems. Many times, behavioral problems can also lead to drug and alcohol abuse.

Statistics have found: [1]

  • Exposure to ACEs can increase the risk of experiencing depressive disorders into adulthood.
  • ACEs can lead to sleep disorders.
  • Women with ACEs have reported risky sexual behaviors.

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Depression and risky sexual behaviors can also lead to people using and abusing substances. This is why researchers have also looked at the link between ACEs and behavioral problems when studying substance abuse disorders.

ACEs vs. PCEs

As we explore adverse childhood experiences, it’s also essential to look at positive childhood experiences (PCEs). PCEs have been linked to lower rates of mental health issues which can help protect them against the risk of developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

One study found that the number of adverse childhood experiences was associated with both social-emotional deficits and developmental delay risks in early childhood. However, positive parenting practices show positive effects independent of the number of ACEs. [5]

This type of research indicates the importance of PCEs and the impact they can have throughout a person’s life, just as the effects of ACEs.

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Addiction Treatment at Desert Cove Recovery

At Desert Cove Recovery, we help people battle their substance abuse disorders and learn what lead them to their addiction. We look at the impact of ACEs and addiction as we customize a program for each patient.

Our addiction treatment programs include various therapy and holistic treatments to help each patient overcome their addictions. We not only help people to become sober but also stay on that path.

If you or a loved one is looking for a treatment program, call us or contact us online for more information.