Childhood trauma increases risk for opioid abuse, study finds


Dec 12 2021 14:35 STI

Washington [US], Dec. 12 (ANI): Young adults who suffered trauma as children are at higher risk of abusing prescription opioids, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.

The study, which was recently published in the Journal of American College Health, supports the case for expanding opioid risk screens to include adverse childhood experiences.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) describe a range of stressors, some more serious than others, that can lead to negative health effects in adulthood. These can range from having divorced parents to domestic violence or food insecurity.

Previous studies have linked childhood trauma to chronic health problems, chronic pain, mental health problems, and health risk behaviors, including illicit drug use. But it is not clear whether ACEs could influence prescription drug abuse and, in particular, the abuse of prescription opioids.

“People tend to use pain relievers in different ways. Some of us are more supportive of using pain medication. Others are not. There isn’t much in it. the literature on pain tolerance, ”said study author Janani Thapa, associate professor at UGA. College of Public Health.

Opioid abuse is increasing among young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, now surpassing abuse in other groups. So, could negative childhood experiences play a role in how young adults cope with pain and opioid use?
To explore this question, the researchers interviewed 1,402 students at a large university in the Southeast.
Participants answered questions related to RCTs, health status and behaviors associated with prescription opioid abuse.

Almost two-thirds of participants reported having had at least one adverse childhood experience.

Compared with participants who had no adverse experiences as children, those who reported zero to three ACEs were almost twice as likely to be at risk for opioid misuse. Participants who reported four or more RCTs were at almost three times the risk.

78.8% of participants reported having at least one past or current health problem, which Thapa says is a key pathway linking ACEs and opioid use because having a health problem or an injury is usually the first time a student has been exposed to an opioid. .

The critical difference in participants’ risk of opioid abuse was the number of ACEs they experienced as children.

“The likelihood of opioid abuse for students who have had four or more ACEs is 13% higher,” Thapa said. “So if we look at two groups with similar health problems, the group with four or more RCTs is more likely to be at risk for opioid abuse.”

This clear association between childhood trauma and risk of opioid abuse is why the authors argue that ACEs should be assessed as part of opioid abuse screenings to support efforts to prevention in progress.

“These experiences can have a huge impact on health throughout life, even more so for those who had more adverse experiences as children,” said author Kennicia Fortson, who led the study as as a graduate student at the College of Public Health with Thapa.

More work is needed, Fortson said, to understand this relationship in young adults, with diverse samples.

“The possible impacts of things like racism, neighborhood violence, bereavement, involvement in the juvenile justice system and other negative experiences also need to be understood,” she said.

The study, “Adverse Childhood Experiences, Risk of Opioid Abuse and Its Pathway Among Public University Students,” is available online.

Former graduate student Kennicia Fortson is the second lead author. Other co-authors include Justin Ingels and Kiran Thapa of the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia and Shanta Dube of Georgia State University. (ANI)


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