• Traumatic Childhood May Increase the Risk of Drug Addiction

    It’s easy to judge others for being drug addicts – but maybe one should look beyond the person and judge those who influenced their lives in this way.

    Previous research has shown that personality traits such as impulsiveness or compulsiveness are indicators of an increased risk of addiction. New research from the University of Cambridge suggests that these impulsive and compulsive personality traits are also associated with a traumatic upbringing during childhood.

    To find out what makes a person at risk of developing drug dependence, researchers examined 50 adults with cocaine dependence together with biological brothers and sisters who had never abused drugs. All participants underwent extensive assessments of their personalities, including their ways of feeling and thinking. Negative experiences that participants may have had during childhood including physical, emotional or sexual abuse were also studied.

    Based on their results, Dr. Karen Ersche, who led the Cambridge researchers, concluded that abusive experiences during childhood have long-lasting effects on behavior in adulthood. Knowing that the siblings had more troubled childhoods compared to healthy peers in the community, the researchers found a direct relationship between traumatic childhoods and the addicts’ personalities. “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,” Dr. Ersche added.

    However, other siblings of the cocaine-dependent individuals who also had a traumatic childhood, and also exhibited higher-than-normal levels of impulsive and compulsive behaviour, did not abuse drugs. Researchers are planning to find out how the siblings who do not abuse drugs managed to deal with their traumatic childhoods and their highly impulsive and compulsive personalities. They want to understand what makes the siblings resilient against addiction. Researchers believe that better understanding of what protected the brothers and sisters from drug abuse may provide vital clues for developing more effective therapeutic interventions for those trying to beat their addiction.

    Dr Ersche added: “Not all individuals with these personality traits would have had a traumatic upbringing. Nor does everyone with these traits develop an addiction. However, our findings show that some people are particularly at risk and their upbringing may have contributed to it.”

    The research was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and conducted within the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute at the University of Cambridge, which is co-funded by the MRC and the Wellcome Trust.  The study was published on August 31, 2012, in the journal American Journal Psychiatry.

    Source:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120831083402.htm

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