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Researchers Say Childhood Trauma and Addiction Have Biological Link

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Researchers Say Childhood Trauma and Addiction Have Biological Link

Researchers at the Department of Psychology at Marshall University have been studying the role that childhood trauma may play in later substance use. In other words, do negative childhood experiences contribute to addiction susceptibility?

It is true that much evidence has been garnered that reveals a clear association between childhood trauma and addiction – and in fact, the more traumatic the event(s), the more likely a child will struggle with addiction.

However, researchers have now demonstrated that this is not merely psychological reaction as previously thought – there is a biological relationship as well.

Moreover, childhood trauma may induce a genetic predisposition to addiction. This association occurs through complicated processes initiated by the traumatic or stressful event. As a result, first drug exposure can instigate a genetic variation that encourages the development of addictive behavior.

Teens with certain genetic propensities are particularly susceptible to substance use disorders. However, this outcome can be tempered through healthy experiences later in life, just as close adolescent relationship and team sports participation.

This association exists because there is a relationship between the neural circuits for social skills and addiction. That is, if there is a deficiency in social reward circuits, individuals may attempt to increase experiential stimulation through substance use as a means to compensate.

The study also noted that the teen years are a critical period for addiction development – therefore, the wide social environment that fosters substance abuse must also be considered in addition to genetic susceptibility and issues with parenting.

In the future, researchers seek to replicate these findings using more heterogenous samples, and discover additional methods to integrate unique, individual factors to development a more accurate addiction model.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

Reference: Research Gate

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