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Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that occur during childhood years. For example, this can include physical abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and parental substance use disorder (SUD). These traumatic events can have long-term effects on children, both physical and mental. ACEs can also increase the potential for someone to develop SUD further down the line. 

In this article, we will explore the link between SUDs and ACEs, as well as the intervention and prevention available for you. It’s important to remember that you are not alone; if you are struggling, reach out to our team here at West Coast Recovery Centers.

What Are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)?

ACEs are traumatic events that happen to children before the age of 18. This is a very important time for children because they are still developing. Children thrive in environments where they feel safe and secure. Some ACEs can include abuse, divorce, parental SUD, parental mental illness, and neglect. 

The Different Types of Adverse Childhood Experiences

ACEs are broken into three different categories, which include abuse, interruptions at home, and neglect. Interruptions at home include experiences such as domestic violence and parental mental illness. Depending on which type you or a loved one have experienced, they can cause different reactions and may even have a higher risk of developing SUD. 

Children who experience sexual abuse and parental SUD are at a higher risk for developing SUD themselves. It’s important to remember that you are not alone, and reaching out for help sooner rather than later is beneficial. 

Is There a Link Between Substance Use Disorders and Adverse Childhood Experiences?

Evidence suggests that children who are exposed to traumatizing ACEs are more likely to develop mental and physical illnesses in their adulthood. This can include cardiovascular disease, obesity, SUD, and anxiety or depression. 

According to the journal Addictive Behaviors, the risk of someone developing SUD greatly increases when they experience ACEs. The study showed that this risk increased because substances can be used to cope with certain reactions to trauma. This includes mood and anxiety disorders. 

This research also explains the impact of specific abuse, such as sexual abuse, and the risk of struggling with SUD. For example, a study examined female twins, and the participants who experienced some form of sexual abuse had an elevated risk of alcohol and drug dependence. 

It can be beneficial to note that if mood and anxiety disorders can be caught earlier, this might help to lower the risk of developing SUD. 

The Stress Response

Another explanation for the link between SUD and ACEs is the stress response to certain traumatic events. When you are experiencing a traumatic event, your body responds to stress, which releases certain hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Over time if you are constantly exposed to cortisol and adrenaline, it can cause negative health effects on your body. 

Exploring the Root Causes of Adverse Childhood Experiences

It can be beneficial to address the root causes of ACEs before they continue to get worse. Some potential causes of ACEs can include poverty, social inequality, and domestic violence. It can be hard to receive help if you are struggling if there are no resources available for you. It’s important to make sure that all communities have resources to help with their mental and physical health. 

It’s vital that parents, especially teenage parents, have people to reach out to for help and are prepared as best as they can be. This will help to ensure that they have the proper support for their children. Providing younger parents with support can help them lower the risk of their child’s ACEs, which will also lower the chance of SUD. 

ACEs are not just an individual problem but also a societal problem. Most of the root causes of ACEs can be addressed and fixed with the help of society as a whole. For example, poverty and social inequality can both be addressed at the societal level. This is important to understand and look into ways that you can make a difference in someone else’s life. 

Early Intervention and Prevention Methods

Early prevention for ACEs is important to ensure that the trauma doesn’t continue to get worse and lead to other problems. Early intervention and prevention can also help with ending the link between ACEs and developing SUD. Prevention methods can include different forms of therapy; either individual or group therapy can be beneficial. 

Here at West Coast Recovery Centers, we offer holistic treatment to ensure each client’s unique needs are being met. For example, we offer dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), group therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychoeducation, and more. It’s important to reach out to West Coast Recovery Centers sooner rather than later to ensure that you receive the necessary help before your symptoms escalate and get worse. 

The role of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on substance use disorders (SUDs) is a complex issue that requires action at various levels. As individuals, we can seek support and resources to address our trauma and develop healthy coping skills. As a society, we must work towards addressing the root causes of ACEs, such as poverty, domestic violence, and social inequality, by providing access to affordable healthcare, safe and stable housing, and education and employment opportunities. By taking action at individual and societal levels, we can reduce the impact of ACEs on SUDs and promote long-term health and well-being for all. West Coast Recovery Centers can help. Call (760) 492-6509 for more information.