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  • Writer's pictureSteve Sawyer

How Do Addiction and Trauma Correlate with Each Other?

Research has been conclusive about the incredible correlation between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and addiction. In The Study of Childhood Abuse, Neglect, Household Dysfunction, and the Risk for Illicit Drug Use, the ACEs study by Dube et al. in 2003 found that high ACE scores increased early engagement in drug use by two to four times and could account for 1/2-2/3 of all severe drug problems. This is an undeniable connection and is a landslide victory when all other potential variables are examined in most addictions research. This correlation often leaves individuals questioning how and why. When thoroughly examined, the answers to these questions lie between the lines of most theories.

When studying the research surrounding ACEs, there are hidden answers to the question of the correlation. In ACEs, the six forms of dysregulation discussed in previous blogs are symptoms of a highly uncomfortable nervous system experience throughout life. With the underlying foundation of discomfort and aggravation that we see in childhood trauma nervous systems, the next missing link in the story is in the research on self-regulation. The ability to manage this deeply embedded stress in the living experience was often accompanied by a lack of skills development of self-calming and self-regulation, which was another extremely high predictor of addictions development (Study of the Role of Emotional Self-Regulation on Addiction Potential  Nikmanesh et al.).

When high-stress levels are reached for any human experience, we naturally seek comfort and relief. These regulation-restoring skills are often absent or regularly demonstrated for individuals growing up in high ACE households. In this experience, a child then internalizes and learns to repress stress, slowly building it up in the nervous system, forming a foundation in the nervous system of dysregulation. With the continued looming uncomfortable nervous system and no skills to manage it, the potential for relief steadily increases through the developmental years. Unhealthy adaptations begin to become essential for day-to-day discomfort looming in the nervous system. With no easy internal solutions, individuals are forced to look outside of themselves for relief. Unfortunately, this need for relief outside oneself is often timed to hit hard around the same time that early teen alcohol or drug experimentation is commonly faced. Unfortunately, at this time, even the lightest use experience offers an outside solution to an inside problem, sometimes creating the first feelings of relief. This relief, proving only temporary to a highly embedded stressed nervous system, begins the cycle of Attachment and Attachment-based science, explored further in the video below.

Watch this to understand more in detail.

Read more about addictions on Steve Sawyer's website.



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