According to new research from the University of Georgia, young adults who experienced trauma in childhood are more at risk for misusing prescription opioids.
The study, which was recently published in the Journal of American College Health, supports views to extend opioid risk screeners to include adverse childhood experiences (ACE).
ACEs describe a range of stressors, some more severe than others, that can lead to negative health outcomes as an adult. These can range from having divorced parents to experiencing domestic violence or food insecurity.
Even though, earlier studies have linked childhood trauma to chronic health conditions, chronic pain, mental health conditions and health risk behaviors, including illicit drug use, it is unclear whether ACEs might influence prescription drug misuse and, in particular, prescription opioid misuse.
“People tend to use painkillers in different ways. Some of us are more welcoming to using medications to manage pain. Others are not. There is not much in the literature on pain tolerance,” said study author Ms. Janani Thapa, an associate professor in UGA’s College of Public Health.
Opioid misuse is growing among young adults ages 18 to 25, now outpacing abuse among other groups. In order to find if ACEs can have a role in young adults’ opioid use, the researchers surveyed 1,402 college students from a large southeast university. The participants answered questions related to ACEs, health status and behaviors associated with prescription opioid abuse.
Nearly two-thirds of participants reported having at least one adverse childhood experience. Compared to participants with no adverse childhood experiences, those who reported zero to three ACEs were almost two times more likely to be at risk for opioid misuse. Participants who reported four or more ACEs had almost three times greater risk.