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Does Trauma in Childhood Lead to Substance Abuse in Adults?

substance abuse, trauma in childhood

Trauma in childhood may lead to substance abuse in adults, although this is not cut and dried and each individual may react to the same trauma in different ways. In general the younger a child is and the more traumatic an experience is the higher the risk will be that the child engages in substance abuse in the teen and adult years, but there are some factors that should be evaluated as well. There are risk factors and protective factors in play with each individual, and one person may experience a devastating trauma in early childhood yet never engage in substance abuse while another individual had a slightly traumatic experience and can not get over it.

Some of the protective factors which may affect substance abuse after a trauma in childhood include things like:

  • A strong support system
  • Coping skills
  • Good mental and emotional health
  • Feeling connected to others
  • Strong family bonds
  • Achievement in academics and education
  • Problem solving skills
  • Gainful employment

Some of the risk factors that may increase the risk of substance abuse after trauma in childhood include:

  • Lack of coping skills
  • Lack of problem solving skills
  • Poor educational performance
  • Previous substance abuse
  • Financial instability
  • Lack of gainful employment
  • Mental illness or poor mental health
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • A lack of support
  • Low self esteem
  • Exposure to domestic violence
  • Growing up in a volatile household where substance abuse and/or violence frequently occurs
  • Being bullied or harassed in childhood
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