High Rates of Childhood Trauma Found in Adult Alcoholics

A new study finds a high rate of childhood trauma in adult alcoholic inpatients. The researchers suggest childhood trauma should be considered when developing prevention and treatment strategies for adults with alcoholism.

While a history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse in childhood is a known risk factor for alcohol dependence, the new study shows how strong the association can be, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The study, conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, included 196 men and women who were treated as inpatients for alcohol dependence. Overall, 55 percent had a history of childhood trauma. The prevalence of emotional abuse was 21 percent; physical abuse, 31 percent; sexual abuse, 24 percent; emotional neglect, 20 percent; and physical neglect, 20 percent.

Almost one-third of study participants reported experiencing at least two types of childhood trauma, and 19 percent reported at least three types. The researchers found a history of emotional abuse increased the risk of mood disorder, particularly major depressive disorder, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Those who experienced sexual abuse had an increased risk of also developing anxiety disorder. The study found people who had been physically abused and then became alcohol dependent were more likely to have attempted suicide.

The study is published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.