ACEs and Opioid Use
Our health isn’t determined by genetics alone. Our choices and experiences—especially the experiences we have in childhood—can have a powerful impact on our long-term health. Abuse, neglect and other Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) are linked to poorer health and risky behaviors such as substance abuse, and the more ACEs a person has, the higher that risk becomes.
Researchers have found that ACEs such as abuse and neglect can create toxic stress in children. This toxic stress affects the pleasure and reward center of the brain—the same part of the brain that’s stimulated by opioids and other narcotics. Opioids may also contribute to a multigenerational cycle of ACEs and their associated health risks within families and communities, as the children of substance abusers are exposed to opioid misuse or abuse in the home.
It’s important to remember that ACEs may increase the odds of having health challenges, but they don’t guarantee poor health or addiction. We will continue to research the connection between ACEs and opioids and help people find positive ways to deal with life’s challenges and overcome adversity.