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The Link Between Substance Use And Child Abuse

Drug and alcohol addiction is a chronic and progressive disease that is slow to develop and can have devastating impacts on the addict, their family and loved ones and the community at large. The cause of addiction cannot be isolated to a certain event or is it cause by a singular factor; it develops as a result of biological, social and environmental factors. Together, these factors can create the perfect storm and anyone can suffer from substance abuse–regardless of age, sex, family background or socioeconomic status. There are certain factors that can significantly increase the risk of developing an addiction to drugs and alcohol later in life, and child abuse is one of the most common factors.

The Many Forms of Child Abuse

Much like addiction to drugs and alcohol, child abuse as a whole is comprised of several different components. These different facets can be present to varying degrees and can affect the child in a direct or indirect manner. No matter what form of abuse and the degree to which it takes place, all of these factors need to be taken into account. These factors are as follows:

Physical Abuse–the most obvious sign of child abuse. With physical abuse child are subject to be kicked, bitten, slapped or beaten up. Additionally, physical abuse can also entail be scalded by hot water, burned, or being attacked with a knife or other object.

Emotional Abuse–also known as psychological abuse, this form of child abuse occurs when parents deliberately try to scare or intimidate their child. Parents who ignore or isolate their children are also emotionally abusing their children. Some parents who are emotionally abusive parents practice forms of child-rearing that are orientated towards fulfilling their own needs and goals, rather than those of their children.

Sexual Abuse–sexual abuse occurs when a child is inappropriately touched, forced into sexual acts by their parents or other family members, or are subjected to pornographic material. Sexual abuse is not limited to physical encounters that involve penetration, pain or force; if an adult engages in any sexual behavior (looking, showing, or touching) with a child to meet the adult’s interest or sexual needs, it is sexual abuse.

Neglect–neglect of a child can involve a wide range of circumstances in which a parent, guardian or caregiver fails to provide for a child’s needs and can include the following

  • inadequate food, shelter and clothing
  • deny access to medical care when necessary
  • providing the basic care, love and support they need
  • fails to provide adequate supervision and control of the child
  • fails to show the appropriate moral and legal guidance
  • by ensuring that the child regularly attends school

In addition, there are other factors that can contribute to child abuse. These can include socioeconomic status, the presence of marital or relationship stresses and parental history of abuse.

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The Ways In Which Child Abuse and Substance Use Are Linked

There are several ways in which child abuse and the use of substances later in life are linked. The first way in which they are linked is the parental history of substance abuse. As previously mentioned, parents who abuse their children may have been abused themselves and there could be a history of substance abuse involved in that pattern. There are three possible theories can explain substance use and child abuse:

  • Cognitive Disorganization Hypotheses–suggests that alcohol abuse increases the likelihood of violence, because it interferes with communication among family members and results in misinterpretation of social cues, overestimation of perceived threats, and underestimation of the consequences of violence.
  • Deviance Disavowal Hypotheses–suggests that the perpetrator attributes the violence to his or her alcohol abuse and thus avoids or minimizes personal responsibility for violent behavior.
  • Disinhibition Hypotheses—proposes that alcohol’s pharmacological actions on the brain interfere with the actions of those brain centers that control (i.e., inhibit) socially unacceptable behaviors.

In regards to the links between child abuse and substance abuse later on in life, adults who were abused as children may turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the trauma of their childhood. Childhood abuse often results in depression later on in life, and instead of seeking professional help and counseling to deal with those issues, those who were abused will turn to substances as a way to deal with those feelings. However, the use of substances acts as a blanket to cover those feelings, but does not address them at the root. As a result, those who were victims of child abuse can get caught in another cycle of abuse, which is drug abuse.

Secondly, child abuse and substance are related in regards to the presence of antisocial behaviors. For those who were abused in their childhood, they may engage in behaviors such as aggression, violence, and delinquency. Researchers have speculated that when children display these behaviors, they will seek out like-minded peers who may use drugs and alcohol.

Thirdly, children who were abused may turn to substances to combat the symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is caused by a person’s experience of an extremely stressful situation, such as threatened or actual violence toward the person or toward someone close to that person. Symptoms of PTSD can include the following:

  • persistent recollections (e.g., dreams) of the trauma,
  • avoidance of any stimuli (e.g., places or people) associated with the trauma
  • persistent symptoms of increased arousal (e.g., hypervigilance).

PTSD is common among those who have experienced child abuse or neglect.

No Matter What The Cause, You Can Get Help In Breaking Free From Your Addiction

Childhood abuse is one of the many factors that can lead to the development of substance abuse and addiction. No matter what your history or situation, you can get the help and support you need to beat your addiction today–with the help of Ocean Breeze Recovery Center. We offer a wide range of therapy and treatment options that can be individually tailored to meet your specific recovery needs and goals. We use a combination of the very best professionals coupled with cutting edge research to diagnose and treat addiction and mental health issues.

In order to beat addiction once and for all, you need to make the commitment to get better today. Call Ocean Breeze Recovery Center and start today.


Stephanie T.

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