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Traumatic Childhood May Result in Drug Addiction

Update Date: Aug 31, 2012 09:19 AM EDT

The early years are of life are the most important years of a person's life as they shape the character and the individual. 

There have been researches previously about the impulsivity or compulsiveness of a person as an indicator of an increased risk of addiction. According to a new study by the researchers from University of Cambridge these personality traits could also indicate a traumatic childhood. 

According to lead researcher Dr Karen Ersche, the aim of the study was to identify the factors that could possibly make a person vulnerable to dependence on drugs. 

For the study, the researchers observed and studied 50 adults, addicted to cocaine and their siblings with no drug addiction.

All the participants underwent extensive personality assessment and were also quizzed about any abuse or negative experiences that they may have had during their childhood. The abuses could be physical, emotional or sexual in nature.

"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," Dr Ersche, of the Behavioral and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI) at the University of Cambridge, was quoted as saying by Medical Xpress.

"This relationship is interesting because impulsive personality traits are known to increase the risk of becoming addicted to drugs but it is not an excuse for drug-taking," she added.

The study revealed that some of the siblings of cocaine abusers have also had traumatic experiences during childhood and they too displayed impulsive and compulsive behaviors. However, they did not abuse drugs. 

The researchers now aim to understand how siblings not addicted to drugs managed to deal with their childhood experiences in spite of their impulsive and compulsive personalities. They also need to understand what makes them resist addiction. An understanding of such a factor may prove useful in developing more effective therapeutic interventions for those who are trying to come out of addiction. 

"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," Dr Ersche added.

The study was published in the journal American Journal Psychiatry.

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