University of Cambridge experts suggest in a new study that experiencing traumas during childhood can increase impulsivity and compulsiveness in adolescents, teens and young adults. These behavioral traits have long since been tied to an increased risk of drug addiction.
What the research argues is that people who grow up being traumatized or abused as children have a higher chance of turning into drug addicts later on in life. Details of how this link works appear in the August 31 issue of the esteemed American Journal Psychiatry.
The risk an individual has of developing drug dependence is not something that is predetermined at birth, but rather the product of a complex interplay of factors. Cambridge lead researcher, Dr. Karen Ersche, set out to investigate exactly what these influences are.
We all go through both positive and negative experiences throughout our lives, the researcher explains, and yet not all go on to become addicts, or to exhibit other types of negative social behaviors.
In order to figure out exactly why some go on to become drug addicts, the expert and her team studies 50 people suffering from cocaine dependency, by comparing them with biological siblings who had never consumed or abused drugs.
Each test subject was carefully analyzed. Researchers were interested in how people in both groups think and feel, and conducted a thorough series of personality assessments to figure this out. Participants were also asked to like negative and abusive experiences they've had early on in life.
“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,” says Erche, who is based at the Cambridge Behavioral and Clinical Neuroscience Institute.
“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,” she goes on to say.
“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,” Ersche explains further.
Some of the siblings of people in the addict group also experienced traumatic events. While they did not go on to develop drug addiction, they did exhibit above-average impulsiveness and compulsiveness levels, the team reports.