Childhood sexual abuse and alcohol problems – TBS


A new study (This is a TBS post from 2007) looks for a relationship between childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and alcoholism. It finds that women who experienced CSA have elevated rates of alcohol use at 12-13 years old, but their rates of alcoholism are not any higher than people with similar adolescent alcohol use, though they are higher than the general population.

Two thoughts. First, CSA has been associated with higher rates of addiction. This suggests that CSA may not cause alcoholism, but may lead to early experimentation, which has been associated higher rates of addiction later in life. What’s so interesting about this is that it supports CSA as a pathway to addiction and supports alcohol adolescent alcohol misuse as a response to CSA, but challenges the frequently circulated idea of addiction as self-medication for CSA.

Second, the study didn’t look qualitatively at the CSA. It would have been interesting to see how the following “traumagenic factors” affected alcohol use and dependence: who committed the abuse (was it a trusted adult?); did they report the abuse and where they believed; how invasive was the abuse; how many times were they abused; how many perpetrators were there?

2 thoughts on “Childhood sexual abuse and alcohol problems – TBS

  1. Teenagers don’t self-medicate for a single past event, but for the pain caused by knowing that they are required to function in the world that betrayed them so often. Therefore, childhood traumas are probably more triggering for addictive behavior after the child learns that teen life is stereotypically expected to be a long, bizarre reenactment of the trauma, and that the alternative is isolation.


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