Adolescents and teenagers are most often the focus of substance use prevention efforts in America. Teaching young people about the dangers of drugs and alcohol is believed to prevent initiation, and in many cases, it’s useful. However, for teenagers who’ve experienced trauma prevention efforts have diminished returns.
There has been a lot of talk of late regarding adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and their role in addiction. ACEs can be anything from loss of a loved one at a young age to having an abusive mother or father. Trauma, of any kind, can severely impact the course of one’s life, leading young people down a dangerous path. Moreover, research shows that substance use prevention efforts may not have the desired effect on people with unaddressed ACEs. It’s the same when it comes to treating addiction, addressing the trauma of one’s past is vital; if lasting recovery is the goal, then addiction professionals must teach clients coping tools.
It’s likely that most people will have subjective viewpoint on what constitutes trauma. What affects one person negatively, may not take the same toll on others. What’s more, some parents may not consider certain actions harmful even though some experts would consider the behavior abusive, such as spanking.
Adverse Childhood Experiences
Substance use and self-harm are in many cases the byproduct of childhood trauma. Without healthy coping mechanisms for living with the abuse that one experienced, resorting to drugs and alcohol to cope with one’s mental state seemingly comes naturally. So, what are adverse childhood experiences? The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) has compiled a list of common ACEs, including:
- Physical, Sexual, and Emotional Abuse
- Emotional and Physical Neglect
- Substance Misuse and Mental Illness Within Household
- Intimate Partner Violence and Mother Treated Violently
- Parental Separation or Divorce
- Incarcerated Household Member
Being subject to anything listed above could play a factor in the development of a substance use disorder. Researchers from the University of Michigan conducted a study to see if spanking should fall under the list of ACEs, The Kansas City Star reports. The findings, published in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect, indicate that spanked children were more likely to have suicidal ideations and attempts, engage in moderate-to-heavy drinking, and use drugs.
“Placing spanking in a similar category to physical/emotional abuse experiences would increase our understanding of these adult mental health problems,” said study co-leader Professor Andrew Grogan-Kaylor.
It’s unlikely that parents who spank their children know the potential damage caused by punishing their children. Mothers and fathers rationalize and justify the behavior by the fact that they [parents] received spankings as children. While not every child who experiences an ACE is going to become an alcoholic or addict, if the risk can be mitigated then it should be.
If you experienced trauma as a young person and are in the grips of alcohol or substance use disorder, please contact Hope by The Sea. We can help you address your trauma and show you how to cope with it healthily.