Connections Between Childhood Adversity & Drug Use
Thanks to a July 2019 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Research on Alcoholism, researcher William Lovado & his colleagues have obtained data that supports a long-suspected connection: The link between a traumatic youth and later use of drugs and alcohol.
The researchers focused on individuals with the Met/Met expression of the COMT gene, arguing that “the greater persistence of dopamine and norepinephrine in Met-allele carriers may plausibly increase sensitivity to the environment” when compared to their Val/Val counterparts (Lovado).
The team used the Oklahoma Family Health Patterns Project to gather 480 healthy individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 as well as identify each individual’s expression of the COMT gene. They gathered information on each person’s early-life exposure to emotional, physical, or sexual abuse as well as which of the genetic groupings had tried different sets of recreational drugs.
While the researchers did also gather results from those with the Met/Val and the Val/Val expressions of the COMPT gene, they only found a significant correlation between forms of childhood abuse and the number of drugs tried in those with the Met/Met expression.
These findings are only relevant for experimentation with various types of drugs, however. Since the sample of 480 persons was taken only from a pool of healthy individuals, these findings cannot confirm associations between childhood trauma and an individual’s tendency towards a substance use disorder, although other studies have shown such a link.
If the results gathered by this study are found to be consistent and repeatable across different populations and communities, these findings could lead to more personalized drug prevention interventions.