Research has pointed to the connection between opioid abuse and childhood trauma for some time.
One study, published in 2009 in the Journal of Addictive Diseases found that among those seeking treatment for opioid abuse (a consecutive sample of 113 participants) “20.4% reported having experienced sexual abuse, 39.8% reported having experienced physical abuse, 60.2% reported having experienced emotional abuse, 23.0% reported having experienced physical neglect, and 65.5% reported having witnessed violence. Only 19.5% of the sample denied having experienced any of the five forms of childhood trauma.”1
In a study just published in the Journal of American College Health, researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) suggest that screening young adults for childhood trauma should accompany any medical treatments requiring pain management.
To conduct the study, the team at UGA surveyed 1,402 college students to understand the prevalence of childhood trauma (albeit of a different nature from the 2009 study referenced above) among this cohort.
Two-thirds of the students reported having experienced at least one adverse childhood event (ranging from having divorced parents to experiencing domestic violence or food insecurity).
When comparing students reporting adverse childhood experiences, those who reported one to three such events were approximately two times more at risk for opioid misuse. Those students reporting four or more adverse events had a nearly three times greater risk for opioid abuse.
The study authors suggest that screening young adults for adverse childhood events prior to medical treatments might prevent opioid addiction among those most vulnerable to the problem. They also suggest studying the roles that racism, neighborhood violence, and grief may have on susceptibility to opioid abuse.
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