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Individuals diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD) may have a history of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance use problems in adolescence and adulthood.” The effects of adverse childhood experiences on recovery vary significantly depending on multiple factors. Clients with a history of ACEs may find it difficult to trust the care team or develop healthy coping skills. West Coast Recovery Centers provides clients with the tools to process their trauma and heal from ACEs. 

The Connections Between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Substance Abuse

Many people who develop SUD have a history of childhood neglect or trauma. Sometimes, substance abuse is an attempt to cope with untreated trauma or mental health symptoms. Adverse childhood experiences are common contributing factors to the development of addictive behaviors. According to the CDC, “61% of adults had at least one ACE and 16% had 4 or more types of ACEs.” Not everyone who experiences ACEs becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol. 

The connections between ACEs and substance abuse include the following:

  • People with trauma related to ACEs may misuse substances to manage their emotional pain 
  • A family history of substance abuse in adolescents may have contributed to ACEs 
  • ACEs and substance abuse may occur independently
  • Abusing substances may worsen symptoms related to ACEs and vice versa

Trauma and substance abuse often co-occur and require simultaneous or integrative treatment. According to Addictive Behaviors, “[I]ndividuals who experienced five or more adverse childhood events (ACEs; i.e., emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; domestic violence; and household dysfunction) were 7–10 times more likely to report illicit drug use and addiction.” West Coast Recovery Centers helps clients identify and process traumas related to SUD and ACEs. 

The Effect of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Treatment Outcomes

Treatment outcomes are affected by many factors, including underlying issues related to ACEs. Many people who have a history of trauma, neglect, or abuse struggle to connect with peers, trust authority figures, or build healthy social connections. Therapy and other treatment modalities help clients overcome these obstacles and achieve recovery goals. 

Some of the most common issues affecting people with a history of ACEs include: 

  • Difficulty communicating effectively 
  • Reluctance to try new experiences 
  • Inability to move forward and let go of past events 
  • More severe mental health symptoms, including anxiety and depression 

Skill development and other tools ensure clients have better outcomes. 

The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Mental Health

Adverse childhood experiences impact all areas of a person’s life as they grow. These early experiences affect how people understand their place in the world and their value to others. Many individuals who experience abuse, neglect, or other ACEs during childhood experience life-altering anxiety, depression, and other mental health symptoms. Most people never have an opportunity to process their childhood. The experiences may continue to negatively affect people for decades, reducing their quality of life. Treating SUD involves identifying underlying issues like ACEs and processing them using evidence-based methods. 

Increased Symptoms and Side Effects of SUD

ACEs may cause people to have more severe symptoms and side effects. Clients with SUD may need more comprehensive treatment for the effects of withdrawal if they have a history of trauma, anxiety, and high stress. More severe symptoms may cause some people to spend longer in treatment and require a combination of prescription medications and therapeutic support to manage their condition successfully. 

Often, people with ACEs have co-occurring mental health disorders requiring simultaneous treatment. For example, a high percentage of individuals with SUD and ACEs have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The clinical team uses assessments and screening tools during the initial client interview to diagnose any co-occurring conditions and identify underlying issues. West Coast Recovery Centers treats all conditions using a whole-person approach to care, ensuring the best possible outcomes. 

The Effect of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Long-Term Sobriety

ACEs sometimes cause people to close themselves off to new experiences. Self-isolation, distrust, and fear of the unknown may stop people from building a sober future. The care team at West Coast Recovery Centers understands the effects of ACEs and has the expertise to help people heal from childhood trauma. 

Adverse childhood experiences impact a person’s recovery in multiple ways, including: 

  • Fear of failure may stop people from embracing recovery 
  • Shame or guilt can cause clients to avoid relying on their support team 
  • Difficulty making healthy connections with others may slow the healing process 

Long-term sobriety requires dedication to change and embracing new routines or thought patterns. People with ACEs may have a more challenging time making the transition and maintaining sobriety. Processing trauma using evidence-based therapies allows clients to reframe their past in a more positive way. 

People’s childhood experiences inform how they see themselves and react to situations during adulthood. Clients in treatment for substance use disorder are more likely to report multiple adverse childhood experiences. The trauma and emotional distress of those events may cause some individuals to avoid trusting peers or their care team. West Coast Recovery Centers helps people heal from the effects of substance abuse by addressing underlying issues, including ACEs. Clinicians provide clients with the opportunity to process childhood events safely and constructively. Addressing underlying issues improves the outcomes of treatment programs. To learn more about how we help people recover from substance abuse, call our office today at (760) 492-6509.