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A Non-Profit Organization for Child Abuse Survivors Learning to Thrive

mental health

How Childhood Trauma Can Create Lifelong Adult Addicts

Author: Trey Dyer

The link between child abuse and future adult drug abuse is strong. More than 66 percent of those in treatment for substance use disorders report abuse during their childhood — including physical, mental and sexual abuse or neglect — according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. A study published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect found childhood abuse rates as high as 84 percent among those in treatment for substance abuse.

United States child protection services receive approximately 3 million reports involving 5.5 million children each year. Of those 3 million cases, nearly 30 percent involve child abuse. In those cases:

  • 65 percent were survivors of neglect
  • 18 percent were survivors of physical abuse
  • 10 percent were survivors of sexual abuse
  • 7 percent were survivors of psychological abuse

These types of abuse can lead to lasting trauma. About two-thirds of child abuse cases go unreported.

Survivors of child abuse often develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the trauma they faced as children. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after an individual experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Those who develop the disorder may experience fear, stress or anxiety about their safety as a result of the trauma even when there is no threat to them. About 5 percent of adolescents develop PTSD; however, more than 21 percent of foster care alumni develop PTSD.

Researchers at Hofstra University compared three groups of foster care children and found that approximately 60 percent of those who were sexually abused were diagnosed with PTSD, and 42 percent of those who were physically abused developed the disorder.

PTSD is also inextricably linked to substance abuse. Those who suffer from PTSD may turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication to cope with the emotions brought on by the disorder.

Surveys by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Chestnut Health Systems found that more than 70 percent of adolescents receiving treatment for substance abuse reported a history of trauma exposure. Multiple studies, including one from Harvard Medical School, found that up to 59 percent of adolescents with PTSD develop a substance use disorder during their lifetime.

Women are particularly at risk of developing co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorders. In a study involving nearly 200 adolescents with substance use disorders, 45.3 percent of female adolescents developed PTSD during their lifetime, compared to 24.3 percent of male adolescents.

Multiple studies show that 25 to 76 percent of teens with substance use disorders started using drugs or alcohol following trauma exposure and 14 to 59 percent started using at the onset of PTSD.

Support for survivors of child abuse is pivotal to preventing them from developing substance use disorders and PTSD. These individuals face trauma and often have no guardian or trusted adult for support, making the emotional damage even more devastating.

If your child survived a traumatic experience and is showing signs such as anger, sleep problems or a change in school performance, you may need to get help from a mental health professional who treats children with PTSD.

About the Author: Trey Dyer is a writer for and advocate for people with substance use disorders. Trey is passionate about helping people with mental health and substance use disorders reach the treatment they need to get healthy. When Trey is not writing, he can be found fly fishing, traveling and smoking BBQ.


Calrk, D., Lesnick, L. & Hegedus, A. (1997, December). Traumas and other adverse life events in adolescents with alcohol abuse and dependence. Retrieved from

Cohen, F. & Densen-Gerber, J. (1982). A study of the relationship between child abuse and drug addiction in 178 patients: preliminary results. Retrieved from

Dubner, A. & Motta, R. (1999, June). Sexually and physically abused foster care children and posttraumatic stress disorder. Retrieved from

Deykin, E. & Buka, S. (1997, June). Prevalence and risk factors for posttraumatic stress disorder among chemically dependent adolescents. Retrieved from

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Giaconia, R. et al. (2000, April). Comorbidity of substance use and post-traumatic stress disorders in a community sample of adolescents. Retrieved from

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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2015, August 13). PTSD in Children and Teens. Retrieved from

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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2016, February 23). PTSD in Children and Adolescents. Retrieved from

Depression – Some Supportive Resources

Depression – Some Supportive Resources

By Patricia Sarmiento

Did you know that there are almost 350 million people worldwide who suffer from depression? Men, women and even children can fall victim to this mental health issue. What’s worse is that depression can lead to other devastating issues including alcoholism, obesity and insomnia.

Depression isn’t something we can simply ignore – some of the people that we talk to every day may very well be battling this illness. To help spread awareness, I decided to create this list of resources, which offer advice that may be beneficial in treating this illness in addition to a professional healthcare regimen.

Those who are struggling with depression need all of the support they can get.

How Stress is Threatening Your Health

Depression and Swimming

How Diet May Help Protect Your Mental Health

Service Dogs for Depression and Anxiety


4 Tips for Battling the Winter Blues

By Patricia Sarmiento

If you find yourself suffering from the winter blues, know that you’re not alone. The winter blues is such a common phenomenon that it even has its own medical diagnosis: seasonal affective disorder.

It’s quite convenient that the disorder’s acronym spells “sad,” because that’s often how we feel around this time of the year. Whether it’s the loneliness, the iciness, or the stress that often comes with the winter season, there are steps you can take to help improve your mood during these colder months. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be frolicking around in the snow in no time.

  1. Be Social

Although you’re feeling a bit glum, go out of your way to spend more time with your friends and family during this lonelier season.

Social interaction is important for mental health, and studies show that hanging out with positive peopleis even powerful enough to help beat depression. Schedule fun winter activities together or pop in a movie and stay cozy indoors. Either way, spending time with people you care about will help improve your blue mood.

  1. Stay Active

Even if you can’t bring yourself to go out into the cold weather to get your exercise in, you can find other ways to stay active indoors. You need those endorphins to help boost your mood, so whether you go for a jog on the treadmill, take a dip in the local YMCA’s indoor swimming pool, or join a group dance exercise class, find ways to keep your body moving all season long.

  1. Eat the Right Foods

Eating healthy foods rich in B12, folic acid, and vitamin D will help combat the winter blues. Since you’re likely not soaking up as much sunshine as you do during the rest of the year, it’s especially important that you go out of your way to increase your vitamin D intake to stay healthy. You can get your extra dose of vitamin D from foods like milk, orange juice, and fatty fish.

  1. Go Outside

Ah, but it’s cold outside–and trying to keep yourself warm and comfortable can be a huge feat. But going outside for some fresh air and Vitamin D can be a great mood boost, and an excellent way to take a break from the everyday worries of life. If you’re a dog owner, bring him! His excitement is likely all the motivation you need to get out the door. If you don’t have a pet, a service dog can be a wonderful way to help you cope with your wintertime distress and be a loyal companion year-round.


Keep these tips in mind and you’re sure to win the battle over the winter blues for many seasons to come. Being social and focusing on taking care of yourself will keep you occupied and optimistic. You might even begin to enjoy these colder months, and then before you know it, summer will be just around the corner again.


Patricia Sarmiento loves swimming and running. She channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics. She played sports in high school and college and continues to make living an active lifestyle a goal for her and her family. She lives with her husband, two children, and their shih tzu in Maryland.