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National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Child abuse may increase opioid addiction risk, says study
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Child abuse is a dark reality in the American society. According to the 2015 Child Maltreatment Report from the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services., child protective services (CPS) agencies across the United States received an estimated 4 million referrals involving more than 7 million children. The report also suggests an increase in child deaths due to abuse and neglect to 1,670 in 2015. Shockingly, about 75 percent of all child fatalities were younger than three years old.

Now, a new study, published recently in the journal Addictive Behaviors, proves that childhood maltreatment is linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, in turn, substance use disorder (SUD). “To protect themselves from strong emotions and from trauma cues that can bring on PTSD symptoms, people with this kind of childhood experience frequently adopt a strategy of avoidance, which can include opioid use,” said study researcher Matthew Price from the University of Vermont.

The study involved 84 participants with a history of opioid abuse. In addition, about 68 percent of the participants met the criteria for PTSD. To examine the association between childhood abuse, PTSD and SUD, researchers used structured equation modeling.

As an initial model including paths from each type of childhood abuse, PTSD and substance-related problems (SRP) did not fit the data well, the researchers used a pruned model. The selected model suggested that emotional abuse, positive urgency and negative urgency were directly related to PTSD symptoms. It also pointed out that only PTSD symptoms were directly related to SRP. Furthermore, significant indirect effects suggested that emotional abuse and negative urgency were related to substance abuse via PTSD symptom severity. The results, thus obtained, suggested the important role of PTSD in the severity of SRP.

“We should really start to explore more integrated treatment. If a patient has had severe emotional abuse and they have a tendency to act out when they’re feeling upset, and then they turn to opioids to deal with the resulting PTSD, it makes sense to address the emotional component and the drug problems at the same time,” Price said.

Childhood trauma, PTSD and substance use

Traumatic life events that include physical abuse, sexual assault and neglect are widespread in the U.S. Trauma experienced during childhood is known to significantly increase the risk of a variety of psychiatric disorders in adulthood. The physical abuse itself (during childhood) does not cause much problem as most individuals have suffered from physical injuries including burns and fractures. Damage is afflicted when the harm is done by individuals to whom a child looks for love and protection. What causes the maximum damage is the emotional and psychological setting in which the maltreatment occurs. Often when the child victims are disbelieved, shamed or threatened into silence, the negative effect of trauma increases manifold and it is not surprising to see these children enter adulthood as numb and anxious individuals.

Some such survivors are not aware that they suffer from a serious mental condition known as PTSD. People with PTSD often re-experience the trauma in their minds that bring about emotional tension and repressed emotions that serve as reminders of the original incident. A person with PTSD lives with a persistent avoidance of the thing or event associated with the trauma.

In fact, there exists a strong relationship between PTSD and SUD. Exposure to traumatic events, especially those experienced during childhood, have often been linked to SUD. In order to self-medicate or dampen mood functions associated with the biological stress response, individuals often resort to alcohol and drugs leading to an increased risk of SUD among those who have experienced early childhood trauma.

Although one cannot always protect children from trauma, a child can survive emotionally if provided with a sense of safety and well-being by a parent or adult post the traumatic event. A treatment that is realistic and compassionate can help reduce the after-effects of the traumatic event.

In an effort to deal with the problem of child abuse and neglect, April is observed as the National Child Abuse Prevention Month (NCAPM) every year. The month places prevention and recognition of child abuse in the forefront and provides an opportunity to learn about signs of child abuse and how to prevent it. This year’s theme — “Building Community, Building Hope” — recognizes the remarkable power in communities to address the problem. It also focuses on research, policies and practices aimed at promoting child and family well-being and ensuring an environment where children can grow up without any kind of abuse and neglect.

Road to recovery

For many women, the trauma of childhood abuse does not fade away with time. Such trauma increases a woman’s risk of getting psychological disorders like anxiety or PTSD as well as addiction to any substance. When someone experiences both mental illness and substance abuse simultaneously, it is called dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. The most effective approach to treating dual diagnosis is to address both the conditions concurrently. Sovereign Health offers various treatments for mental health issues and co-occurring disorders.

A women’s treatment center, Sovereign Health of Arizona understands that female trauma survivors are often hesitant and fearful of seeking treatment. Keeping that in mind, we offer all our women patients the opportunity to rebuild their lives in the strongest way possible. In addition to addressing trauma, our Chandler facility provides treatment for alcohol and drug addiction to all our women patients.

It can be difficult for one to recover from an addictive substance like alcohol by oneself. Therefore, treating alcoholism in women involves treatment of their physical, mental and behavioral symptoms. At our treatment facility, women’s alcohol rehab involves detox from alcohol along with counseling and therapies.

For more information on dual diagnosis residential treatment and dual diagnosis treatment programs offered at our dual diagnosis treatment Arizona facility, call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-598-5661. Chat online with our trained counselors to know about dual diagnosis residential treatment programs offered by us and to find our top rated dual diagnosis treatment centers near you.

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