Extremely stressful events that occur during childhood increase the risk of life-long health and social issues like obesity, diabetes, depression, and substance use in adulthood, according to the renowned Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study.

The ACEs study is one of the largest investigations into the impact of childhood abuse and neglect on later-life health and wellbeing. Originally conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente, it clearly documents that adverse childhood experiences, termed “ACEs,” can significantly contribute to negative adult physical and mental health outcomes. An ACE score is a tally of different types of abuse, neglect, and other household dysfunctions. The more difficult the childhood, the higher the score is likely to be and the higher the risk for later health problems.

IBH Addiction Recovery stands by this groundbreaking study and uses its proven tools in the treatment of our own clients. “Through our own ACEs research, we realized that the majority of people that come through our door have experienced some form of childhood trauma,” says Michael Swartout, IBH Addiction Recovery Education Coordinator. “As a result, the entire organization has become more ‘trauma-informed.’ Every member of our staff, from the people doing intake to our educators and counselors, treats every client as a trauma victim. We are committed to building a safe environment for them to feel comfortable within, with trust and rapport.”

Oftentimes, IBH Addiction Recovery clients don’t even know that they’ve experienced trauma in their past. ACEs, however, can help identify what is often the root of why they may have started using substances in the first place. With this knowledge, the IBH Addiction Recovery team is better able to develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses the co-occurring conditions. “Most people don’t understand that the drinking and drugging weren’t the problems. They were the solutions — a way to live with the trauma,” says Swartout.

The trauma of early childhood, in fact, is chronic stress that’s set up in the brain similar to a drug craving. It causes the brain to call for more dopamine, the same “feel-good” neurotransmitter released by drugs that cause substance abuse. At IBH Addiction Recovery, we help clients learn to live without those high spikes of dopamine. Through trauma-integrated addiction treatment, we help them find different ways to cope with life by combining talk therapy with spirituality, exercise, and diet for a more holistic approach.