The Link Between Child Abuse, Substance Abuse and Relapse

It is well known that relapse is common for those in early recovery from addiction. Also well known is that those with a history of child abuse are more likely to abuse substances in adulthood. A recent study now links the two – showing that those with history of substance abuse who are in early recovery have a higher propensity for relapse.

New York University School of Medicine and Yale University School of Medicine researchers published their recent findings in the American Medical Association journal, JAMA Psychiatry, showing the link between the two and highlighting the potential difficulty of treating adult addicts with a history of abuse. The researchers used MRI scans to look at the brains of 79 people in substance abuse treatment, some with a history of child abuse and others without. The researchers looked for changes in the brain previously associated with an increased risk for substance abuse relapse. They found these changes to be more prevalent among those who had a history of child abuse. The research showed that the increased risk of relapse pertained to all addictive substances. The study also noted that as many as 5 out of 10 people who experience neglect or childhood abuse will develop substance abuse problems and will have a high rate of relapse.

The findings also discussed the challenge of having effective treatment for those with child abuse in their history because the relapse potential is so high. However, addiction treatment centers like Harmony Foundation already consider abuse history when crafting treatment plans for new clients and programs for those who had relapsed. Because the rate of relapse is high for those in early recovery in general let alone those with a history of abuse, offering relapse prevention groups and therapeutic opportunities to recognize and face triggers is essential in addiction treatment.