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Childhood Trauma and the Risk of Adult Substance Abuse


Childhood Trauma and the Risk of Adult Substance Abuse


Hundreds of thousands of children suffer childhood trauma, neglect and abuse globally

every year. Those nearest to children are usually accused of their abuse and neglect. As indicated

by, more than 6.5 million children are sent to state child protective services due to

abuse cases annually and investigative reports are initiated generally against 50:% of these

children (Schean, 2017). Although the number of reported cases is quite substantial yet there may

be a large number of children going through traumatic and abusive experiences whose cases are

not reported.

Due to this discrepancy it is extremely difficult to exactly ascertain the number of abused

and neglected children. If not treated properly, the childhood abuse leaves extremely negative

repercussions on the remainder life of the child.

Childhood Trauma and Adult Substance Abuse

There is a strong relationship between many physical, mental and reproductive problems

in later life and childhood abuse or trauma. Links have also been confirmed between some

instances of childhood abuse and vices like excessive use of illicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

Besides adversely affecting the health of a person, childhood trauma and abuse is also

instrumental in reducing the lifespan of the individual by 21% when dealing with the after effects

of abuse. It has been revealed in studies related to adult abusers of drugs and alcohol that

substance abuse and stress related disorders can be linked to childhood abuse and trauma.

Physical, emotional and sexual abuse as well as physical or emotional neglect can leads

to childhood trauma. Evidence is available that out of those being treated for alcohol or drug

abuse problems, about 70 % on the average confirms physical, emotional or sexual abuse in

childhood. Bulk of the information linking substance abuse to a person's abuse in childhood is

received normally from indirect sources.

50 studies examining female drug abusers having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

were reviewed in a study carried out by the Harvard Medical School researchers and funded by

the National Institute on Drug Abuse. According to the study very high percentage of substance

abusers have been diagnosed with PTSD. Most of the women being studied said that they relive

till this day the trauma of their child abuse through nightmares of flashbacks.

Link between Alcoholism and Childhood Abuse

It was confirmed by a study that appeared in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental

Research that majority of alcoholics being treated have been found to suffer from childhood

trauma. The evidence in the study shows that most of the participants were physically,

emotionally or sexually abused as children and that a link existed between childhood abuse and


Sustaining Childhood Abuse and Trauma

It can be said without any doubt that everlasting scars and emotional pain are left by the

child abuse on the remainder life of a person. According to other studies, even the areas

controlling reasoning, decision-making, emotions and planning in the brain are also badly

affected and damaged by the childhood abuse and neglect (Edalati & Krank, 2016). Therefore,

children suffering from abuse and neglect are likely to adopt unhealthy behaviour like substance

abuse in adulthood. A better understanding of emotion regulation deficits and traumatization in

persons in addition to vulnerabilities will provide in-depth information about the issue. Closely

documenting and treating individuals who have been experiencing comorbid substance use

problems and they being exposed to child abuse may inform interventions that would lead to

better outcomes.


Edalati, H., & Krank, M. (2016). Childhood Maltreatment and Development of Substance Use

Disorders. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 17(5), 454-467. doi: 10.1177/1524838015584370

Schean. (2017). Childhood Trauma and the Risk of Adult Substance Abuse - Nsight. Retrieved