Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are not limited to negative events that happen during a person’s earliest childhood. They can include events that happen at any time during the person’s first 18 years of life. Some researchers believe, based on the fact that the brain does not complete its development until approximately the age of 25, that traumas impact a person’s life even up to that age. When a person experiences a series of traumas, they are in store for the possibility of many troubles in life, including the emotional disorders that often lead a person down the road to prescription drug use.
Researchers did not initially connect prescription drug use with adverse childhood experiences. Initially their studies focused on the increased risk of poor health in children who had suffered from trauma, including obesity and cardiac problems. Eventually the evidence led them to documentation of depression and alcoholism. The children who were most likely to be identified as having a “poor well-being”, were those who had experienced three or more traumatic events during their formative years.
Over 95,000 children were surveyed in a study that had a real impact based on it’s size alone. The surveys were given to a child chosen at random in a home when an adult answered the phone and agreed a child could participate. The questions asked if they had experienced any of the following during the first 18 years of life:
- Whether a parent figure often swore at them, insulted or humiliated them, or made them feel physically afraid.
- Whether a parent figure often grabbed, pushed, slapped, or threw something at them, or hit them so hard that they left marks.
- Whether the adult in their lives had ever touched or fondled them in a sexual way or tried to have sex with them.
- If they ever regularly felt that nobody in their family really viewed them as special in any way, or if they lived in a family where the people didn’t have each others’ backs.
- If they felt that their parents were often drunk or high, or if they were hungry, often wore dirty clothing, and had nobody to protect them.
- Whether their parents had separated or divorced.
- If they had seen someone hit, push, grab, or throw things at their mother, or if someone kicked or bit her, or someone hit her repeatedly over five minutes’ worth of time or aimed a gun at her.
- Whether they had lived with someone who used alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs or street drugs.
- If anyone in the household was depressed or attempted suicide.
- Whether anyone in the household went to prison.
Amazingly, 6.6 percent of the respondents said yes to three of the questions, and one out of ten youths admitted that they had experienced four of the traumatic events. The negative consequences for these children included poor conduct at school, repeating a grade at school, not completing assigned tasks or responsibilities at home or at school, inability to maintain a calm attitude, and fair-to-poor physical health. Many of them demonstrated other negative behaviors such as bullying or being too argumentative.
If You Are Struggling with Prescription Drug Use
If you have thought about getting help for prescription drug use and you hate yourself for being a “weak” person who cannot shake drugs on your own, consider first that opiate prescription drug use is one of the most compelling addictions because of the overwhelming cravings and the horrible withdrawal symptoms. You are most likely to beat prescription drug use if you seek help at a program that offers opiate addiction treatment with a medication, such as methadone or buprenorphine.
If you are addicted to another drug such as amphetamines or benzodiazepines, you will not need medication-assisted treatment but you should still contact a rehab center so that you can get a referral for the therapy that will help you get and stay clean.
And then you must ask yourself if the type of traumatic events identified here happened to you during your childhood years. If so, you must recognize that those are not the kinds of things that should happen to children, and that they are not the norm. Of the 95,000 children questioned, almost 46 percent of them had never experienced any of the traumas. A little over one-fourth of them answered yes to only one of the questions. That means if you’ve answered yes to three or more of those events, it will be important to communicate with your counselor when you begin treatment for prescription drug use.
You should never feel ashamed about admitting the truth about the negative things that have happened to you in your life. If someone hit you or called you names, or if someone sexually assaulted you, then please understand: You were the victim. It was never your fault. The adult who subjected you to those horrible events may have told you that it was your fault, but that’s a lie. The best way to believe that you were an innocent victim of someone else’s mistakes, is to share the information with a counselor who can help you talk about the events, analyze them, and learn what to do with your feelings.
Today’s substance abuse treatment professionals are always seeking more knowledge about the best ways to help their clients, and they are aware that yesterday’s horrible traumas can be the root of today’s negative behaviors, including prescription drug use. They cannot take away the hurt and pain that you experienced years ago, but they can teach you that if you cannot change something, you can move forward from it.
You can change your addiction to prescription drugs, no matter what ghosts from the past have led to your use, and you can start on that today by calling your local medication-assisted treatment program.