Childhood trauma -- including sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and neglect – may predispose some kids to become alcoholics as adults, new research shows.
The study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found individuals underdoing inpatient detoxification and treatment for alcoholism are three to four times as likely as non-alcoholics to have had a history of childhood trauma.
"Previous studies have found that alcoholic patients self-report higher rates of physical and sexual abuse in childhood compared to the general population," said Markus Heilig, clinical director at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The new national survey estimated:
• 33 percent of female alcoholic patients (and 24 percent of males) reported being physically abused as children, compared to 6 percent of women (and 8.4 percent of men) in the general population;
• 49 percent of female alcoholic patients (and 12 percent of males) reported being sexually abused as children; and
• About 23 percent of female alcoholic patients (and 5 percent of males) experienced both types of abuse.
The findings were based on an analysis of 196 alcohol inpatients (134 men, 62 women) who were surveyed about childhood physical and sexual abuse, emotional abuse, emotional neglect, and physical neglect.
"We had four key findings," said Heilig. "One, patients being treated for [alcohol abuse] are likely to have experienced one or more types of childhood abuse and neglect. Two, sexual abuse increases the likelihood of developing anxiety disorders in addition to [alcoholism], while emotional abuse increases the likelihood of developing depression. Three, alcoholics who experienced childhood physical abuse may be more likely to have a history of suicide attempts. Four, alcoholics who experienced more than one type of abuse or neglect are especially at risk for developing a psychiatric disorder or for attempting suicide."