Traumatic childhood may increase the risk of drug addiction: study

Previous research has shown that personality traits such as impulsivity or compulsiveness are indicators of an increased risk of addiction. Now, new research from the University of Cambridge suggests that these impulsive and compulsive personality traits are also associated with a traumatic upbringing during childhood. The study was published today, 31 August, in the journal American Journal Psychiatry.

Led by Dr Karen Ersche, the Cambridge researchers aimed to identify that make a person vulnerable to developing . They examined 50 adults with together with their biological brothers and sisters who have never abused drugs. All participants underwent extensive assessments of their personalities, including their ways of feeling and thinking. The researchers were also interested in that participants may have had during childhood (to include physical, emotional or sexual abuse).

Dr Ersche, of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI) at the University of Cambridge, said: "It has long been known that abusive experiences during childhood have long-lasting effects on behaviour in adulthood and this was confirmed by our results. The siblings had more troubled childhoods compared to healthy peers in the community, and we also found a direct relationship between traumatic childhoods and their personalities."

She added: "This relationship is interesting because impulsive are known to increase the risk of becoming addicted to drugs but it is not an excuse for drug-taking."

The childhoods of the brothers and sisters of the cocaine-dependent individuals were also traumatic, and they also exhibited higher-than-normal levels of impulsive and compulsive behaviours, but they did not abuse drugs.

The researchers next intend to explore how the siblings who do not abuse drugs managed to deal with their traumatic childhoods and their highly impulsive and compulsive personalities. The scientists want to understand what makes the siblings resilient against addiction. A better understanding of what protected the brothers and sisters from drug abuse may provide vital clues for developing more effective therapeutic interventions for those trying to beat their addiction.

Dr Ersche added: "Not all individuals with these personality traits would have had a traumatic upbringing. Nor does everyone with these traits develop an addiction. However, our findings show that some people are particularly at risk and their upbringing may have contributed to it."

More information: The paper 'Cognitive Dysfunction and Anxious-Impulsive Personality Traits Are Endophenotypes for Drug Dependence' will be published online 31 August on American Journal Psychiatry website.

Related Stories

Abnormal brain structure linked to chronic cocaine abuse

Jun 21, 2011

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have identified abnormal brain structures in the frontal lobe of cocaine users' brains which are linked to their compulsive cocaine-using behaviour. Their findings were published ...

Possible tool to help cocaine users kick the habit

Oct 07, 2011

Medicines which increase levels of the brain chemical dopamine may hold the key to helping those addicted to cocaine and amphetamines kick the habit, researchers from the University of Cambridge have found.

Chronic cocaine use may speed up aging of brain

Apr 24, 2012

New research by scientists at the University of Cambridge suggests that chronic cocaine abuse accelerates the process of brain ageing. The study, published today 25 April in Molecular Psychiatry, found that age-related loss o ...

Recommended for you

Our brains are hardwired for language

46 minutes ago

A groundbreaking study published in PLOS ONE by Prof. Iris Berent of Northeastern University and researchers at Harvard Medical School shows the brains of individual speakers are sensitive to language univer ...

Child burn effects far reaching for parents

5 hours ago

Parents of burn victims experience significant psychological distress for at least three months after the incident and may compromise the post-operative recovery of their child, WA research has found.

Internet use may cut retirees' depression

5 hours ago

Spending time online has the potential to ward off depression among retirees, particularly among those who live alone, according to research published online in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences an ...

Classifying cognitive styles across disciplines

5 hours ago

Educators have tried to boost learning by focusing on differences in learning styles. Management consultants tout the impact that different decision-making styles have on productivity. Various fields have ...

User comments