Childhood Trauma, a Veritable Trigger for Addiction

A study, titled “Substance use, childhood traumatic experience, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in an urban civilian population,” claims, “SUDs are also highly co-morbid with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mood-related psychopathology.” It says that there are “strong links between childhood traumatization and SUDs, and their joint associations with PTSD outcome.”

The United States is grappling with growing incidences of traumatic life experience, such as physical and sexual abuse as well as neglect which is considered a top public health problem in the country. It is increasing at an alarmingly high rate. A visit to any drug rehab centers in your area would vindicate this reality.

Another study by researchers at the University of Texas claims that childhood trauma can raise a child’s odds of developing depression and addiction later in life. Traumatic experiences cause disruptions in certain neural networks of the brain causing depression and substance use disorder in teens. The researchers conducted the study on 32 teens, out of which 19 had a history of abuse during their childhood. They followed up these teens every six months for an average of three and a half years. The study revealed that nearly half the maltreated children had either a diagnosable drug problem or depression or both, three times the rate seen in normal teens.

How do early life events shape our lives?

Our brains and bodies are programmed by our respective early life experiences. A child coming from a calm and well nurtured environment will have a rosy outlook towards the world. It will strive in every condition in life. On the other hand, a child subjected to abuse and exposed to traumatic experiences during early age will grow up predisposed to adverse conditions. It is only likely that such a child would take to substance abuse and get afflicted with other mental conditions.

Any overwhelming stress which is too unpredictable or something over which the person has little or no control becomes a hazard and trauma. Moreover, early neglect or an absence of parenting are also tantamount to trauma for a child.

The risk of substance use disorder increases in people with early traumatic experience because of their attempts to self-medicate. They tend to dampen mood symptoms associated with a deregulated biological stress response by using illicit drugs. To make it worse, early adolescent onset of substance use or abuse may further disrupt the biological stress response by increasing plasma cortisol levels. It substantially contributes to the risk for posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD and co-morbid depressive symptoms.

It is also established that gender plays a key role as another study suggests the existence of a gender difference in co-morbidity. While exposure to traumatic events increases risk for SUDs for young women, it does not for young men.

The study “Substance use, childhood traumatic experience, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in an urban civilian population,” found differential effects of abuse type on substance use. Like sexual abuse in childhood is associated with cocaine and marijuana use only while emotional abuse was associated with cocaine use.

Prevention and cure

The study suggests an “enhanced awareness of the co-morbidity between PTSD and substance abuse is critical.” It will help people in understanding the mechanisms of substance addiction as well as in improving prevention and treatment.

Retirement Woes: Substance Abuse Among Elderly on the Rise

There has been a significant rise in substance abuse cases among senior citizens in the U.S., according to a New York Times report. The report says that over the last decade the rate of alcohol and drug abuse among adults aged 65 or older has more than doubled, and it is expected to rise further in the years to come. According to 2010 U.S. Census, of the 35 million seniors, 17 percent are suffering from alcohol addiction and other substance abuse.

Aging has a significant negative impact on the body if alcohol and illicit drug use is high. Peter Bamberger, Ph.D., Organizational Behavior from Cornell University and Samuel B. Bacharach Director, Institute for Workplace Studies & Smithers Institute, studied 1,100 retirement-age blue collar workers.

The study found that an estimated 10 to 17 percent of Americans aged 65 and older misuse alcohol. Retirement plays an important factor for them to indulge in substance and alcohol abuse as this phase of life brings loss of structure, identity and peer networks. Other factors like aging bodies, thought rigidness, inability to cope with new generation and such societal pressures complicate vulnerability to alcohol.

“It’s not surprising they’re looking for some way to self-medicate. Alcohol misuse by retirees is more complex than people think,” Bamberger said in a report by Cornell University. The findings were recorded in the book, Retirement and the Hidden Epidemic: The Complex Link Between Aging, Work Disengagement and Substance Misuse – and What To Do About It.

Older adults feel withdrawn from the society

Retirement is a process when a working professional shifts from a full-time working model to a part-time one and at times is left no option to work. As people grow, body’s tolerance level decreases and sensitivity to alcohol increases. In older persons, the body takes more time to metabolize alcohol, leading to intoxication.

Lifestyle changes and aging intensify the impact of alcohol, reducing their confidence to take decisions and cope with abuse. For an addict, emotional instability like divorce, death of a spouse, change of residence, no support from children can be few triggers in inducing addiction.

Assisting retirees

It is important to help retirees and spot the symptoms which can be the first step toward fighting the rising problem. A collaborative effort from immediate circle can help these seniors. Many do move back into the working environment with their own businesses or change careers – a trend known as “bridge employment.”

Some other ways to help out older adults can be to assist employees with their retirement plans and to encourage workplace alumni networks. Since age does not play a role in the recovery of a person, older adults can be treated like any other patient during the recovery process.

The treatment for older adults should focus on programs that would help them with direct health benefits, improve cognition, educate them about independent living, creating a social network and developing new hobbies.

Fundamental Questions About Alcoholism in Society

Perhaps no medical topic arouses more confusion, dismay, and passion in both the public and the medical profession than alcoholism. Although alcohol is often associated with joy and celebration, ritual, and reverence, alcoholism is associated with sorrow and moral failing, disease, and death. No other disease entity can be conceived as having such extreme attributes.

Society’s decision to ban certain substances while allowing others to be freely available has little to do with the dangers inherent in any particular substance, and it has more to do with the emotional outcry that a particular substance engenders. For example, consider the seemingly benign over-thecounter medication acetaminophen, or Tylenol. Tylenol was first introduced in 1956. About 150 acetaminophen-related deaths are reported every year in the United States alone. Add to that the associated morbidity and mortality from those requiring liver transplants from Tylenol overdoses, and the numbers become even greater. Contrast that with Ephedra, a once hugely popular drug for weight loss and bodybuilding that has been linked to a grand total of 155 deaths. The deaths from Vioxx are more difficult to calculate because these deaths are primarily from patients already suffering from cardiovascular disease and not from the direct effects of the drug itself.

The estimates suggest up to 27,000 deaths since its introduction in 1999. The outrage leading to its removal had more to do with the company’s refusal to acknowledge the risks than the risks themselves. Alcohol, however, is responsible for approximately 85,000 deaths annually from injuries or diseases directly related to the use or abuse of alcohol. Thus, people often judge the risks and benefits of a particular substance based more on cultural, religious, and moral beliefs than on scientific fact. Alcohol is a prime example

Alcohol is the single most unique intoxicant because it is a legal, non-prescription, and culturally sanctioned substance that causes more devastating effects to human lives than any other known drug, whether available by prescription or over the counter or on the street. Prohibition, the one attempt in American history to prohibit alcohol use, was a miserable failure, with the cure being worse than the illness. Although it successfully cut the deaths from cirrhosis in half, it came at the cost of increased crime and social unrest.

Ingesting anything-medicine, an illegal drug, or even food-is an act that entails a degree of risk. Therefore, people should understand the risks and the alternatives before ingesting anything. Informed consent is both a legal and an ethical responsibility of healthcare providers to ensure that their patients are knowledgeable about the drugs they are ingesting, including over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, street drugs, food, and alcohol.

Although the institution of medicine has accepted the concept of alcoholism as a disease, the larger culture with its personal values and beliefs, which includes healthcare providers themselves, continues to debate the issue, with many still viewing alcoholism as a moral failing.