Free 24-Hour Helpline Available

Call (844) 319-5239

View our 360 Tour of The Teen Treatment Center - Drug and Alcohol Rehab

How Childhood Trauma Affects Teens into Adulthood

October 2, 2015

How Childhood Trauma Affects Teens Into Adulthood

Stress plays a huge role in addiction. Teens often turn to drug and alcohol abuse as a way to escape or cope with stressors. Although not all addiction spurs from trauma, trauma has a significant influence on whether a person begins to abuse drugs or alcohol in the first place. 

Teens already have daily stressors in their life such as school, work and family and social pressures to get good grades and fit in. However, when there is significant trauma involved whether it’s from severe injury, physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect, this can increase the chances that teens abuse drugs well into adulthood.

For children who grow up in a stressful or harmful household, their chances of becoming dependent on drugs and alcohol increases tremendously more than a child who grows up in a more calm, nurturing environment. 

Effects from Childhood Trauma

At least half of adult addicts have suffered from some type of severe childhood stress. According to The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study by the Center of Disease Control, nearly 66 percent of adult addicts who injected drugs had childhood trauma. It was also found that a child who has suffered from childhood trauma is 4,600 percent more likely to use drugs through injection.  

Out of the 17,000 adults who were surveyed in the ACE, 41 percent of women had at least two or more traumatic childhood experiences and 34.2 percent of males had at least two or more traumatic childhood experiences.

So what’s considered childhood trauma?

Physical Abuse 

Many adults surveyed in the ACE had experienced significant child abuse or had witnessed it in their household from a parent, caregiver or family member. Males are only slightly more likely to experience physical abuse than females. Physical abuse included injuries or bruising from beating, punching, kicking, stabbing, hitting with an object, choking, shaking or even burning. 

Sexual Abuse

About 16 percent of men experienced childhood sexual abuse and 24.7 percent of women experienced childhood sexual abuse. Sexual abuse often included fondling, incest, rape, sodomy, and indecent exposure by a parent, caregiver or someone they knew. 

Emotional Abuse 

Most people overlook emotional abuse, but the pain from emotional abuse can be just as bad as physical abuse. Girls are likely to experience emotional child abuse more than boys are. Emotional child abuse often included berating, receiving disparaging remarks, humiliation, threats of harm or abandonment, or confinement to enclosed spaces for a long period. 


In the United States, 686,000 kids are abused or neglected every year. Child neglect includes abandonment, lack of supervision, malnutrition or malnourishment. In the ACE survey, about 25.9 percent of women experienced child neglect and 23.1 percent of men experienced child neglect. 

Childhood Trauma affecting teens

Sometimes severe childhood injury or surgery can also cause significant trauma and cause teens to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope or become dependent on prescription drugs. Also, when children witness substance abuse problems and/or mental illness in the household, this also increases the likeliness that teens will abuse drugs and alcohol. 

Effects on Physical Health

For teens and adults with trauma and substance abuse issues, it’s common to see physical health decline. The health problems often experienced include:

  • Major Depression 
  • Heart Disease 
  • Liver Disease
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) 
  • HIV/AIDS (needle sharing)
  • Promiscuous sex with multiple sex partners 
  • Suicide attempts

Most adult addicts begin abusing drugs and alcohols in their teens. When trauma is experienced in childhood or throughout adolescence, physical health often declines early on in young adulthood.

Treatment for Childhood Trauma

People who were traumatized as a child or teen can often become re-traumatized as an adult. Certain situations or people can be triggers for past child abuse or neglect, which can make a person even more vulnerable to abusing or relapsing on drugs and alcohol to cope. 

However, cognitive behavioral therapy has proven to be the most effective therapeutic method for treating childhood trauma. This therapy helps teens adjust their maladaptive thinking and reinforces their positive behaviors so that they develop new healthy coping mechanisms. 

For a teen dealing with substance abuse issues and past trauma, a teen treatment facility that has a medically supervised detox along with integrative therapies is the most effective treatment.

If your teen or someone you know needs professional help, our board-certified staff helps teens heal from trauma and substance abuse. To find out more, chat or call us today at (844)319-5239 Our admissions counselors are glad to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Related Articles:
How PTSD can lead to Substance Abuse
Trauma and PTSD
Oppositional Defiant Disorder Treatment

« Show All Articles

Teen Treatment Center has been awarded
the Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval.