Causes and Effects of Child Abuse - Childhood Maltreatment And The Risk Of Illicit Drug Use
aces males females age
It is recognized that illicit drug use is associated with behaviors leading to violence, sexually transmitted diseases, other health problems, and crime. A study population of 8,613 adult members of a health plan filled out a questionnaire relating to their adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) during the first eighteen years of life. The aim of the study was to determine the effects of related ACEs on various health outcomes and behaviors (Shanta R. Dube, Vincent J. Felitti, Maxia Dong, Daniel P. Chapman, Wayne H. Giles, and Robert F. Anda, "Childhood Abuse, Neglect, and Household Dysfunction and the Risk of Illicit Drug Use: The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study," Pediatrics, vol. 3, no. 3, March 2003).
The participants included more females (54%) than males (46%). About three-fourths (73% of females and 75% of males) were white. The mean age was fifty-five years for females and fifty-seven years for males. A total of 32% of females and 42% of males were college graduates. Another 42% of females and 39% of males had some college education. Just a small proportion (8% females and 7% males) did not finish high school.
The researchers used the following ten categories of ACEs:
- Battered mother
- Parental separation/divorce
- Mental illness at home
- Substance abuse in home
- Incarcerated household member
The researchers found that each ACE increased two to four times the likelihood of initiation to illicit drug use by age fourteen and increased the risk of drug use into adult-hood. They noted that several ACEs usually occur together. Their cumulative effect on illicit drug use is strongest during early adolescence because the young teen has just been through those painful experiences and is at the same time undergoing the turmoil characteristic of that age group.
ACEs were also found to increase the likelihood of initiation to illicit drug use among adolescents ages fifteen to eighteen and persons age nineteen and over. This shows that ACEs have long-term effects past early adolescence. Moreover, persons who had experienced more than five ACEs were seven to ten times more likely to have illicit drug use problems, addiction to illicit drugs, and injected-drug use. Finally, the authors determined the connection between ACEs and lifetime illicit drug use by analyzing four birth cohorts, or persons of approximately the same age, starting in 1900. They found the greatest impact of ACEs on illicit drug use among the oldest group, showing that adverse childhood experiences, such as child abuse and neglect, can have persistent effects throughout a person's lifetime.