Behind Something Hidden Is Something Deeply Hidden
By Ronald D. Hunter
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, a child is abused every eight minutes in the United States.
Aside from the debilitating psychological, behavioral and cognitive challenges endured by survivors of childhood abuse, research has also linked it with adult and adolescent substance abuse. Adults who were abused as children are 1½ times more likely to use illicit drugs than individuals who were not abused as children.
In addition, childhood abuse, specifically emotional abuse, is significantly associated with the recent opioid epidemic, according to researchers from the Gillings School of Global Public Health, a top-ranked graduate and undergraduate public health program at the University of North Carolina. In a recent study conducted at the University of Vermont, 84 participants with a history of opioid abuse and childhood trauma went through a series of psychological tests and were interviewed about their childhood experiences. The results showed that those who suffered from emotional abuse during childhood were more strongly connected to opioid abuse than those who suffered from sexual or physical abuse during the same time period.
Researchers also found that children who had been emotionally abused were more likely to engage in risky behavior in adolescence and have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adulthood.
As a result of the PTSD, study participants took up opioid use as a means of refuge or escape. The more severe the PTSD, the more severe the participants’ opioid-related problems.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 90 Americans die from overdosing on opioids daily. Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as Oxycodone.
Aside from the severe affects opioids are afflicting on the user, they are leaving behind a trail of other victims. The opioid epidemic has contributed to an overall 32% increase of children entering foster care.
“The impact on the kids that come into our custody are much more intense, much more complex and unsafe, than any other substance-involved cases that I’ve been involved with over the years,” comments Kristi Burre, Deputy Director of Fairfield County, Ohio’s Children Services Division.
This is a real public health crisis with devastating consequences that will echo long into the future. When traumatic childhood experiences go untreated it creates an endless cycle paralyzing generation after generation.