Links Between Childhood Trauma and Addiction as an Adult

Researchers are constantly gathering more data & gaining a deeper understanding of the physiology & psychology of addiction, specifically the role of children’s biological, social, and experiential background in becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs later in life. For help starting on a path to recovery and healing, call 877-526-7706 to speak with one of our Addiction Specialists. Ridgeview Ranch can help.

The recently released Elton John biography film Rocketman has quickly gained wide acclaim from critics and audiences. One of the highlights of the movie is its treatment of his alcoholism and drug addiction resulting from his childhood experiences. Some have declared this aspect of the film as one of its greatest triumphs when compared to other rock star biopics.

Even if a viewer has not had personal experience with addiction or childhood trauma, Rocketman portrays the relationship between Elton’s childhood experiences and his addiction as an adult in a way that makes it relatable to anyone. As a result, more people are paying closer attention to the connection between childhood trauma and addiction development during adulthood.

Researchers are constantly gathering more data and gaining a deeper understanding of the physiology and psychology of addiction. This includes an ongoing search for answers regarding addiction development and susceptibility. Because a child’s environment and experiences significantly affect their physical and psychological development, more researchers have begun examining the role of children’s biological, social, and experiential background in becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs later in life.

As the brain develops during childhood, it forms, strengthens and even sometimes discards or alters its neural connections. One’s childhood experiences—both the positive and the negative—effect the brain’s growth and physical structure, sometimes determining whether certain connections between neurons become stronger, weaker, or broken. Negative structural changes can significantly impede brain development.

Traumatic experiences create frequent and high levels of stress that have been linked to impeded brain development in children. During this critical period of life when a maturing brain needs to form stable pathways, childhood trauma can instead destabilize and even destroy them. This creates vulnerabilities that raise the risk of future substance dependency, abuse, and addiction.

Many associate childhood trauma with child abuse, but several other intense experiences can contribute to increased risk for addiction. Neglect, loss of a parent, witnessing domestic or other acts of physical violence, and having a family member who suffers from mental illness have been linked to higher vulnerability. Also, in cases of child abuse, the child’s loved ones are the source of the trauma, essentially eliminating the possibility of family support when a child needs it most. Many of these victims later begin to use alcohol or drugs as a form of coping with the lasting emotional effects. While a traumatic childhood does not necessarily lead to addiction later in life, studies have revealed a strong link between trauma experienced as a child and addiction as an adult. This knowledge has helped treatment centers develop new methods to effectively help addicts toward recovery. If you or someone you know suffers from addiction, whether due to childhood trauma or other circumstances, contact Ridgeview Ranch (877-526-7706) to begin on the path to recovery. We offer several treatment programs supported by a trained, compassionate staff committed to guiding patients to sober, healthy lives.

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