Childhood Trauma May Increase Drug Addiction Risk

New research suggests that an individual’s increased risk of developing addictions could be tied to a traumatic experience or background rather than strictly being related to specific personality traits.

Prior research has suggested that signs of an increased risk of addiction are tied to personality traits like impulsivity or compulsiveness, but a new study suggests that the roots of addiction go back even further. The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, set out to discover the risk factors that make one individual more susceptible to developing a drug addiction than another.

For the study, 50 adults with cocaine addictions participated, along with their drug-free biological siblings. They underwent broad assessments of their personalities, including their ways of feeling and thinking, reports Medical News Today. They were also asked questions concerning any negative childhood experiences, including any emotional, physical, or sexual abuse suffered.

“It has long been known that abusive experiences during childhood have long-lasting effects on behavior in adulthood and this was confirmed by our results. The siblings had more troubled childhoods compared to healthy peers in the community, and we also found a direct relationship between traumatic childhoods and their personalities,” said Dr. Ersche of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI) at the University of Cambridge.

The study found that both the drug users and their drug-free siblings exhibited higher-than-average levels of impulsive and compulsive behaviors, and all suffered traumatic childhood experiences contributing to these traits. How the drug-free participants coped versus how their siblings fell into addiction is a subject the scientists plan to tackle next.

“Not all individuals with these personality traits would have had a traumatic upbringing,” concluded Dr. Ersche. “Nor does everyone with these traits develop an addiction. However, our findings show that some people are particularly at risk and their upbringing may have contributed to it.”