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Study Explores Connection Between Childhood Trauma and Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a complex condition, one in which genetic factors, societal pressures and psychological background often compound to make an individual more susceptible to dependence. An estimated 14 million Americans struggle with this form of substance abuse, and in some cases, it can drive a person to manipulate those they love and turn their back on their responsibilities.

In an effort to better understand this addiction – and potentially develop preventative programs that target high-risk individuals – medical researchers are continually striving to isolate the factors that may drive a person to alcohol abuse.

Past trauma, including abuse or neglect as a child, has long been associated with an increased likelihood of substance addiction. Recently, scientists in Sweden discovered a neurological basis for this connection. According to a press release, researchers from the University of Gothenburg and the University of Upssala found that, in general, people who abuse alcohol have lowered central serotonergic neurotransmission compared to individuals who don’t have such an addiction. This neurological process, the source states, affects a range of behaviors including judgment and the management of emotions. When reduced, it can lead to impulse-based disorders and depression.

The researchers reportedly sought to establish a relationship between alcohol dependence and this brain function, and how childhood trauma may affect both. They conducted interviews with 18 men battling the addiction and found that experiencing abuse at at early age may be linked to a substantial drop in the brain’s production of serotonin.

“Several studies indicate that environmental factors affect the activity of genes, irreversibly in the individual, by so called epigenetic mechanisms. This means that chemical groups are attached to the DNA, or other components of the chromosome, as an effect of life-events, especially early ones,” said University of Gothelund associate professor Kristina Berglund.

Concerned that someone you care about may be abusing alcohol? Contact an alcohol interventionist for guidance and support.

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