03 Jun Trauma in Childhood Raises Risk of Addiction
Researchers continue to look for root causes behind drug addiction not only to help treat those with drug dependency, but also in hopes of preventing the illness from forming to begin with. Drug use studies examine and re-examine the nature (human personality and genetic predisposition) and nurture (environment and external factors) sides of the equation. One University of Cambridge study attempted to look at nature and nurture together.
The study involved 50 cocaine-addicted adults along with their biological siblings who never fell prey to drug abuse. Part of the study examined each subject’s personality, delving into how each one felt and how they thought about things. Careful attention was given to personality traits such as impulsivity and compulsiveness, since these are traits known to increase a person’s risk for addiction.
The researchers also carefully documented negative childhood experiences. Traumas such as emotional, sexual or physical abuse were recorded and compared to control subjects with no history of abuse and no risky personality traits. The study showed that there was a definite link between trauma, personality and drug use.
For example, this study reinforced previous studies which show how early childhood trauma impacts adult behavior. A link between trauma and personality seems to exist. The adults who had experienced early trauma seemed to show more evidence of compulsiveness and impulsivity. This was true even among the non-addicted siblings.
In short, early trauma is linked to impulsivity and compulsive personality traits which, in turn, are associated with a high risk for drug addiction. However, as the non-addicted siblings prove, not everyone with trauma becomes a drug abuser and neither does everyone with compulsive/impulsive personality traits. All that can be said at this point is that some personality traits are a risk factor and some childhood events do contribute to the risk of drug addiction. More may be learned from studying how the non-abusing siblings escaped addiction.
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