Child Abuse Influences Substance Abuse Relapse


Victims of child abuse who become substance abusers are more vulnerable to addiction relapse.

Victims of child abuse who become substance abusers are more vulnerable to addiction relapse, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

For the study, a team of researchers at Yale University and the New York University School of Medicine conducted brain scans on 79 patients undergoing a 12-step treatment for a substance use disorder (SUD) and 98 healthy controls. Both groups included participants who had suffered childhood maltreatment (CM), the authors reported.

The investigators reported a reduction in gray matter volume (GMV) in both the SUD and control CM patients’ left hippocampus, parahippocampus, and anterior fusiform gyrus, which control emotion, learning, and memory. The study results also indicated the importance of those brain regions’ facilities regarding relapse, as CM participants with an SUD had a shorter relapse time. In addition, GMV deficiencies successfully predicted the severity of addiction relapse.

Although the role of CM in SUD and relapse has not been widely studied, the authors claimed their research provides additional biomarkers to identify addicts at high risk of relapse.

“We can begin to think about ways to address the underlying pathology in substance abuse and explore use of exercise and some medications to stimulate new growth and connections in brain cells in these specific brain regions to help restore trauma-related brain atrophy,” senior study author Rajita Sinha, Director of the Yale Stress Center, commented. “As childhood trauma is highly common in substance abuse, addressing these trauma-related structural brain changes can help us develop better treatment plans to promote successful recovery from addiction.”

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