The relationship between child abuse and drug addiction

Posted by on Aug 31, 2012 in Child Abuse & Drug Addiction |

The relationship between child abuse and drug addiction has been linked according to a new study from Harvard University. Children who experienced abuse and maltreatment at home have shown changes in important parts of the brain. The changes in the child’s brain are linked to drug addiction, depression, mental health problems, and schizophrenia.

Researchers believe the relationship between child abuse and drug addiction occurs during two developmental periods in childhood. The periods are between the ages of three and five, and ages eleven to thirteen. The reason for the relationship between child abuse and drug addiction, researchers believe, is based on a study with lab animals. Studies used lab animals subject to extreme stress and found this causes their hippocampi to shrink in size. They believe this shrinkage also happens with humans during this developmental period.

Using MRIs to scan the brains of 193 participants between the ages of 18 and 25, Professor Martin Teicher and his colleagues, found that those who had been neglected or mistreated had 6% less volume in certain are of the hippocampus and reduced size in the subiculum region of their brains. The hippocampus is associated with memory function and the subiculum receives information from the hippocampus to help determine an individual’s biochemical and behavioral responses to stressors.

The types of abuse the children dealt with were verbal, physical, sexual, physical, emotional neglect, parental separation or parental discord. The brain scans of these individuals showed evidence of trauma, whether or not they had been diagnosed with a disorder.

By damaging the brain or causing it to shrink the relationship between child abuse and drug addiction begins because the dopamine system in the child’s brain is unregulated and lack of dopamine is linked to drug abuse and psychological illnesses.

So the relationship between child abuse and drug addiction may start here. The brain changes that Dr. Teicher found may also cause mental illness. That is why there is a relationship between child abuse and drug addiction.

In another study of 178 patients in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction found that 84% of the individuals reported a history of child abuse. This also gives way to a relationship between child abuse and drug addiction.

All in all researches have proposed several reasons for the relationship between child abuse and drug addiction. Drug addiction due to the child abuse may serve as:

  • A mechanism to cope or escape from the trauma of child abuse and the depression
  • A way to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Self-medication in an attempt to gain control over the experience of being abused
  • A way to improve self-esteem
  • A form of self-destructive behavior

Going along with that the relationship between child abuse and drug addiction probably also has something to do with things such as, poor coping skills, antisocial behavior, PTSD due to the child abuse. The relationship between child abuse and drug addiction is a strong one.

One thing is for sure child abuse does something to the brain and child’s ability to handle life that may cause them to have mental issues or seek out some form of relief in drugs and alcohol later on in life.

Sources:

http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-1/52-57.htm

http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ282710&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ282710

http://www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/addiction/child-abuse-alcoholism-drug-addiction/

 

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