There are many factors that can lead to addiction. Your environment, social network, and current life circumstances are all major components that can contribute to dependent behavior. But one of the biggest elements that can lead to an addiction is a person’s 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, and 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.
Understanding ACES and Its Impact On Personal Health and Development
To gain a better understanding of how ACES and addiction are linked, it is critical to have a clear understanding of what makes up an adverse childhood experience. These are traumatic experiences that have occurred during a person’s childhood (0-17 years). These events include things such as parental domestic violence and household dysfunction. It also includes any form of abuse, including physical, emotional, sexual, 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, ACE’s are extremely common in the United States. Approximately 61% of adults surveyed have reported at least one type of ACE, according to the CDC. Nearly one in six individuals also reported experiencing four or more types of ACEs. ACEs can have lasting negative consequences, leading to depression, substance abuse, chronic disease, sexually transmitted infections, and suicide. Extreme levels of stress during childhood can lead to changes in brain functioning, leading to additional mental and physical health conditions. 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, which is when a person will experience excessive activation of the stress response systems in the brain. This can cause a person to become especially triggered and reactive if something resembles their original trauma. Toxic stress can contribute to many undesirable health conditions, including heart problems, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and early death, according to Harvard University.
ACES and Addiction
As discussed, the impact of an ACE can persist long after the initial traumatic event has passed, morphing into a variety of negative health outcomes. In addition to various mental and physical health 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, as 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, with the aim of alleviating any residual effects of childhood trauma.
In order to assess a person’s likelihood of experiencing negative ramifications as a result of early-life trauma, an ACE score was developed as a tally of a person’s rough childhood. 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 different category of ACE, meaning multiple incidents of the same type of ACE did not increase a person’s score. Higher 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 the chances a person will abuse drugs, making it important to address ACEs when entering a rehabilitation program.
Selecting the Right Treatment Program to Deal with 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, it is important to select an addiction treatment program that can provide the necessary tools to tackle adverse childhood experiences. You will want to select a facility that recognizes the importance of dual diagnosis within the context of addiction and employs intervention professionals trained to treat these co-occurring disorders. Choosing a program that is able to address all of an individual’s specific needs with a custom-tailored treatment plan is crucial to maintaining sustained 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 today to begin your journey to recovery. The path to sobriety can feel like an impossible battle, one that is difficult to be waged on your own. Our caring professionals can provide you with a trusted team of allies to help you stay focused on the path 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 attain their goal of achieving sobriety, offered in a therapeutic environment conducive to healing.