Many factors can lead to addiction. Your environment, social supports, and current life circumstances are all significant components that can contribute to dependent behavior. But one of the most prominent elements that can lead to an addiction is the traumatic experiences one has during childhood.
In this blog, we’ll look at the following topics:
- What does ACEs stand for in addiction?
- Is childhood trauma linked to addiction?
- ACE score
- Dual diagnosis treatment for ACEs and addiction
What Does ACEs Stand for in Addiction?
Adverse childhood experiences score or ACES. Experts suggest that ACES and addiction are closely linked.
Past trauma has been shown to play a major role in behavioral issues in adulthood. It continues to become an important factor to address upon entering an addiction treatment program. A person’s earliest experiences in life can have a profound effect on their development, making this element critical when assessing a person’s addiction profile.
Is Childhood Trauma Linked to Addiction?
To better understand how ACES and addiction are linked, it is critical to understand what makes up an adverse childhood experience. These traumatic experiences occur during a person’s childhood (0-17 years).
These events include things such as parental domestic violence and household dysfunction. It also consists of any form of abuse, including sexual, physical, and emotional abuse or neglect. Additionally, parental separation or divorce can also be defined as an adverse childhood experience, as can the loss of a parent through death, deportation, or incarceration.
Unfortunately, ACEs are extremely common in the United States. According to the CDC, approximately 61% of adults surveyed have reported at least one type of ACE. Nearly one in six individuals also reported experiencing four or more ACEs.
ACEs can have lasting negative consequences, leading to depression, substance abuse, chronic disease, sexually transmitted infections, and suicide. Extreme stress levels during childhood can lead to changes in brain functioning, leading to additional physical and mental health problems. An ACE can lead to a reduction in the hippocampus, affecting a person’s memory, learning, and attention.
Early life trauma can lead to toxic stress when a person experiences excessive activation of the stress response systems in the brain. This can cause a person to become mainly triggered and reactive if something resembles their original trauma. Toxic stress can contribute to many undesirable health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and early death, according to Harvard University.
As discussed, the impact of an ACE can persist long after the initial traumatic event has passed, morphing into a variety of adverse health outcomes. In addition to various mental illnesses and physical ailments, an ACE can also lead to addiction in adulthood. Individuals who have experienced some form of childhood trauma have shown an increased tendency to abuse drugs and alcohol, as demonstrated by the Kaiser Permanente/CDC study on ACEs.
This tendency toward addiction is not limited to substance abuse. Individuals who have experienced some form of childhood trauma are also prone to issues such as compulsive eating, gambling, and sexual behavior. When an individual’s loved ones provide abuse instead of support, it increases the chances of that person seeking out drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication, intending to alleviate any long-term effects of significant adversity in childhood.
An ACE score was developed as a tally of a person’s rough childhood to assess a person’s likelihood of experiencing negative ramifications due to early-life trauma. The higher one’s score, the higher the risk for negative health outcomes later in life.
The scoring system ranges from 0 to 8. A person only receives a point for each category of ACE, meaning multiple incidents of the same type of ACE did not increase a person’s score. High ACE scores were linked to an increase in smoking, as there was a 250% increase in an individual with an ACE score of 6 or more compared with a person with an ACE score of 0.
The same was true for chronic alcohol abuse, as there was a 500% increase in adult alcoholism with an ACE score of 4 or more compared with a score of 0. Shockingly, one of the highest increases was seen in the category of injected drug use.
There was a 4,600% increase for individuals with an ACE score of 4 or more compared with a score of 0. These results highlight how critical early-life trauma can impact a person’s chances of abusing drugs, making it essential to address ACEs when entering a rehabilitation program.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment for ACEs and Addiction
It’s clear that addiction is not an isolated issue and is often connected with events that occurred much earlier in a person’s life. For this reason, selecting an addiction treatment program that can provide the necessary tools to tackle adverse childhood experiences is important.
You’ll want to select a facility that recognizes the importance of dual diagnosis within addiction and employs intervention professionals trained to treat these co-occurring disorders. Choosing a program that addresses specific needs with trauma-informed approaches is crucial to maintaining sobriety.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, whether it is related to substance abuse or any other form of harmful dependence, contact Soul Surgery Rehabilitation to begin your journey to recovery.
The path to sobriety can feel like an impossible battle, challenging to be waged on your own. Our team experienced in aces and other adversities exists to foster resilience alongside you for the road ahead.
We offer you an invaluable support system that can prove priceless during this vulnerable time. Soul Surgery Rehabilitation offers clients a time-tested and proven model to achieve sobriety in a therapeutic, stable environment conducive to healing.