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People Suffering from Traumatic Childhoods at High Risk for Substance Abuse

Update Date: Aug 31, 2012 03:54 AM EDT

Healthy coping mechanisisms are necessary to handle outside stressors and for avoiding self-defacing or destructive behavioior.

Suffering a traumatic childhood experience may increase the risk of drug addiction, research from Cambridge university now suggests. Experts link compulsivity and impulsiveness with drug addiction and have found those common traits in those who have had troubling childhoods.

Dr Ersche, of the Behavioral and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI) at the University of Cambridge, said to Cambridge Press,

"It has long been known that abusive experiences during childhood have long-lasting effects on behaviour 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."

Researchers extensively assessed the personalities and childhood experiences of 50 adults with severe cocaine dependence, comparing them with their close relatives (brothers and/or sisters) who never abused-drugs.

While the non-abusing relatives also underwent childhood trauma and were said to have possessed higher-than-normal levels of impulsive and compulsiveness, they still managed to steer clear from drugs.

Dr Ersche added: "Not all individuals with these personality traits would have had a traumatic upbringing. 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."

The researchers next intend to explore how the siblings who managed to deal with their traumatic childhoods and their highly impulsive and compulsive personalities. A better understanding of what protected the brothers and sisters from drug abuse may provide vital clues for developing more effective therapeutic interventions for those trying to beat their addiction.

The study was published today, 31 August, in the journal American Journal Psychiatry.

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