Childhood Sexual Abuse Linked to Drug and Alcohol Dependence

Risky sexual behavior increases the likelihood that individuals will contract or spread HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STIs). Unwanted pregnancies are also a consequence of risky sexual behavior. Young adults who engage in this type of activity often have substance misuse or dependency problems. This increases the probability that they will take risks because of decreased inhibitions. Studies have shown that people with these traits may have psychological issues that stem from childhood experiences. Different types of childhood abuse, including sexual abuse, neglect, or maltreatment, have been shown to pose a risk for later psychological impairments. Because of the significant relationship between childhood abuse and sexual risk taking, it is imperative that this link be examined thoroughly in order to design interventions that meet all the needs of this vulnerable population.

To this end, Assaf Oshri of the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences at the University of Rochester’s Mt. Hope Family Center in New York recently led a study that evaluated the sexual risk taking patterns of 394 adolescents who were receiving outpatient services for substance abuse. Oshri found that the teens had many different risk factors that increased their chances of contracting STIs and HIV, but two were directly linked to substance use and sexual risk taking. “Findings were consistent with previous research documenting significant relations between childhood sexual abuse or neglect and the development of a wide range of psychopathology among youths, including substance use disorders,” said Oshri.

These results suggest that teens who have survived these types of abuses have not been able to develop adaptive coping skills and instead rely on destructive habits of coping with their emotional trauma by using drugs or alcohol. This behavior seems to increase the likelihood of substance dependence and risk taking in these teens. Although Oshri discovered a stronger link between childhood sexual abuse and alcohol dependence than sexual abuse and drug dependence, this finding should be taken with caution. Oshri emphasizes that it is critical for clinicians to examine the specific types of abuse a teen has survived when trying to address any form of substance abuse.

Oshri, A., Tubman, J. G., Burnette, M. L. (2012). Childhood maltreatment histories, alcohol and other drug use symptoms, and sexual risk behavior in a treatment sample of adolescents. American Journal of Public Health, 102.S2, S250-S257.

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Brittany


    June 8th, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    Not that I condone this kind of abuse and behavior but if someone had used me as their own personal punching bag when I was a kind then I think that I would have to find me a way to numb the pain too. Drugs and alcohol are always just the next step for people who have to endure this kind of pain. It helps you to forget about it for a while, but unfortunately the memories always come back again once you sober up.

  • A.Wills


    June 8th, 2012 at 8:43 PM

    Most of us pay attention to what school our kids to to and other similar things.But the effects of childhood abuse are still fairly unknown.Parents need to seek out this awareness and try and be a better parent in the real sense,not just by buying the hike wherever he or she asks for.

  • SierrA


    June 9th, 2012 at 5:20 AM

    You can’t ditch the abuse
    Then you can’t ditch the drugs and alcohol that you have sought for relief
    Too bad we didn’t think to ditch the parents earlier

  • smith


    June 9th, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    Well, I don’t know that there is an abuse survivor around who has made it out of it totally healthy. Some wear the scars more visibly than others do, but no matter who they are, they are there. Some turn to drugs, some turn to other hard living, some turn inward, but ultimately they all try to turn away from that childhood that should have bee so much better for them but wasn’t.

  • Noni


    June 10th, 2012 at 5:38 AM

    If your life starts off on such a destructive bent, then sadly most of us are destined to follow that into adulthood.

  • CARL H

    CARL H

    June 11th, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    This happens and needs to be acknowledged.But how do we counter this?Are there any statistics on whether intervention programs after the abuse could prevent such behavior later on in adult life of the survivors?

  • Alexis


    June 11th, 2012 at 4:21 AM

    Unfortunately, drug and alcohol abuse are not the only two destructive behaviors that anyone who has had to deal with childhood sexual abuse will face.

    Many of these men and women, when they get into adulthood, sometimes have the tendency to become involved in relationships with others that are less than healthy, or could engage in the very same behaviors themselves against other children.

    It is that cycle and pattern of abuse that can be so difficult to break.

  • Unknown


    June 11th, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    They say that everyone has problems, well at least that’s what my mother tells me now, she sais that other peoples problems are bigger than mine. I totally understand that, but then why does it hurt soo much? my mother was bipolar, I can remember everything since age 5 the abuse from my mother she had me at age 14 according to my father an alcoholic might be on drugs as well, my mother did not know she was pregnant till I started kicking. I have soo much painful memories that It is hard for me to live with I try to just say screw it all and find my happiness I feel like my heart is sinking in to my sould, that I am tearing myself and destroying my insides. I hate myself I feel like in bot normal and I’m a psycho freak. I do not trust anyone but my daughter who had at the same age 14 everyone I’ve loved with all my heart betrayed me, humiliated me. My grandmother raised me but I don’t think she really loved me she hates my mother I think she just used me for her sick games of brainwash torment and pity. I’m african American and hispanic she would always tell me noone lovEs me but her that my mother didn’t want me that she just threw me with my grandmother like a strayed dog. There is soo much more that it really hurts to write all. If I could witch I don’t feel like I am good enough or capable to do, is to write a book about it maybe that would help erase those heart crushing soul burning memories. And I did turn to both substance they never help I need help and i need god

  • Pauline


    June 11th, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    Unknown- I am so sorry for everything that you have experienced in your life. I beg you to seek help. There are so many resources that you can find via this website and I am sure in your own community if you could only seek it out. Find a minister to talk to and even if you don’t want the church experience, finding someone within a church who can help to point you to those resources that are available could be so good for you. Please do this before you decide that life is not worth the hurt. I know that it must feel like it isn’t but it is.

  • jennifer


    June 12th, 2012 at 4:28 AM

    Sadly, so many victims who have suffered abuse are living lives full of risk because for them they see that their lives are irreparable anyway, so why not live it it on the edge? But with this risky behavior many of them don’t see the danger that they are posing to others as a result of their choices.

  • Unknown


    June 12th, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    What do I look for help In? I can’t even get up out of bed or out the door sometimes I feel like I’m chaned in my room, and can’t let the sunlight hit it. My room is always messy I clean it up then it goes back the same. Well most of all because of my daughter lol. Writing here is actually helping me a little bit better I like writting. Or typing.

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on