How Adverse Childhood Experiences Lead to Drug Addiction

Every parent wants the best for their children, but not every child gets the best, and not every parent delivers the best. As the years pass, we consistently learn more about how the events and occurrences of our youth impact our lifestyle choices and decisions as adults. Parents can even have nothing but good intentions but still impart some negative experiences to their kids, experiences that might lead to substance abuse later on in life. Let’s go over this and explore the factors.

One Doctor Says He Has the Answer

In a groundbreaking article that has been published and shared nearly a quarter of a million times on social media platforms, Dr. Daniel Sumrok, (the director of the Center for Addiction Sciences at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine), discusses the extreme impact that one’s childhood can have on their chances of becoming an addict in young adult life or adult life. In an opening statement, he drops the hammer by saying that:

  • “Ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking (what traditionalists call addiction) is a normal response to the adversity experienced in childhood, just like bleeding is a normal response to being stabbed. The solution to changing the illegal or unhealthy ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking behavior of opioid addiction is to address a person’s adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) individually and in group therapy; treat people with respect; provide medication assistance in the form of buprenorphine, an opioid used to treat opioid addiction; and help them find a ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking behavior that won’t kill them or put them in jail.”

Talk about controversial and edgy. But Dr. Sumrok has a point. If we can look into and address an addict’s past, we can help him create a better future. Dr. Sumrok initially saw the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in people with eating disorders. He found that ninety percent of individuals with eating disorders also had experienced sexual trauma in their youth. Once he came across that evidence, it became clear that negative experiences in one’s youth absolutely impinged on their adult lives.

Dr. Sumrok attributed Adverse Childhood Experiences to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, giving an analogy to a hypothetical experience with a lion:

  • “Drop the ‘D’, because PTSD is not a disorder. We’ve named this thing wrong. Post-traumatic stress is a brain adaptation. It’s not an imagined fear. If one of your feet was bitten off by a lion, you’re going to be on guard for lions. Hyper-vigilance is not an imagined fear, if you’ve had one foot bitten off by a lion. It’s a real fear and you’re going to be on the lookout for that lion. I tell my patients that they’ve had real trauma that’s not imagined. They’re not crazy.”

The doctor discusses how things like Adverse Childhood Experiences, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and a great deal of other, adverse phenomena can begin in one’s childhood and extend into one’s adult life. And while one is constantly remaining watchful and vigilant for the “lion that bit the foot off,” one will often self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to cope with the veritable plethora of negative emotions and mental constructions that come along with living at constant ends with one’s own traumatic experiences.

Dr. Sumrok believes without any shadow of a doubt whatsoever that our childhood experiences can and do dictate much of our adult lives.

How Parents can Raise Their Kids to Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

Most parents do a great job raising their kids. We aren’t trying to scare parents or convince them that they have to be extremely cautious with their children, one-hundred and ten percent of the time. There are, however, a few tips that parents can follow to ensure their kids do not grow up to struggle with addiction:

  • Teach your kids about the risks and threats of drug use and alcohol misuse. This is a very simple strategy. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, children who learn about the risks and dangers of drug use alcohol alcoholism are up to four-hundred percent less likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol than kids who do not get this information from parents. Yet only one-third of parental groups have these discussions with their kids. That needs to change.
  • Parents need to do their best to prevent their children from experiencing truly brutal and terrible experiences. Physical violence, rape, abuse, bullying, hazing, etc., all of these can permanently mark a young person’s life, causing them to experiment with drugs and alcohol later on in life, just to cope with the strain of that past event.
  • Parents should also do their best to monitor and even have some say in the kinds of people their kids spend their time with. Young people are easily influenced and harmed by others. Young people have far thinner skin than grown adults do. All it could take might be one bad influence from one bad-influence friend in one’s youth, a little bit of peer pressure here, a few unpleasant experiences there, and all of a sudden one’s son or daughter might begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Keeping our kids safe from drugs and alcohol is simply a matter of educating them on the risks attendant with such substances, making sure they know to keep good company, and making sure they have rewarding and enjoyable upbringings that are full of love and pleasant experiences, not traumatic ones.

Sources:

https://acestoohigh.com.cmun.it/e/edv5xh/2017/05/02/addiction-doc-says-stop-chasing-the-drug-focus-on-aces-people-can-recover/?t=1524413034

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/111/3/564?download=true

https://www.samhsa.gov/capt/sites/default/files/resources/aces-behavioral-health-problems.pdf

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