Does the path to addiction begin in the womb?

Posted on March 10, 2016 by Addiction Editor

lonley girl spread_optDrug and alcohol abuse is known to typically begin in the teenage years.

Yet, a new US government report revealed key factors that lead to addiction set in before birth.

Those biological, psychological, social and environmental factors take root during pregnancy.

And, the stresses a child experiences before the age of eight also play a big role in addiction later in life, according to the National Institutes of Health report.

Childhood development problems – including lack of school readiness skills, insecure attachment issues and signs of uncontrolled aggression – were found to later increase the likelihood of addiction.

Likewise, difficult experiences during vulnerable transition times – such as a parents’ divorce or moving to a new home – were also found to be risk factors for drug and alcohol abuse.

Interventions to help children cope with such stresses are thus critical to prevent substance abuse, the report noted.

Dr Nora Volkow, director of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, said: ‘Thanks to more than three decades of research into what makes a young child able to cope with life’s inevitable stresses, we now have unique opportunities to intervene very early in life to prevent substance use disorders.

‘We now know that early intervention can set the stage for more positive self-regulation as children prepare for their school years.’

The report, called Principles Of Substance Abuse Prevention For Early Childhood, addressed the major influences on a child’s early development.

By adolescence, a child’s attitudes, behaviors, family interactions and relations are well established – and not as easy to change.

Yet, within the first eight years of a child’s life, there are a number of things that can affect a child’s development – and later send them spiraling into addiction.

That’s because the child’s brain is rapidly developing during that time period.

The report said: ‘The prenatal, child, and adolescent brain is undergoing rapid and significant change, including the formation of new synapses and, after about age five, the progressive pruning of unused synaptic connections and reinforcement of major circuits.’

One of those factors is the genes the child inherits from his or her biological parents, which could predispose them to substance abuse.

Additionally, the child’s environment – or the context into which the child is born and grows up – also play a big role.
The quality of parenting a child receives, in addition to their sibling relationships, can have a large effect on development.

Other factors, such as nutrition and socialisation, also play a role. To read more at the Daily Mail click here.

The Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference 2016, themed Alcohol – Other Drugs – Behavioural Addictions, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery will be held on the Gold Coast from the 19 – 20 May 2016.

To register your attendance at the conference CLICK HERE. Early bird registrations close Friday 8th April so be quick to receive a discounted rate.

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