New research published in molecular psychiatry They explored neurological and emotional factors that may help child abuse victims become more resilient to substance use disorders. The study found that people who experienced childhood abuse but did not develop a substance use disorder had better emotional control and a healthier functioning endocannabinoid system. These findings may contribute to the development of treatments to prevent substance use disorders in people who have been abused as children.
Childhood abuse increases the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder in adulthood. However, not everyone who was abused in childhood develops the disorder, suggesting that some are more resilient to its effects. Previous research has identified several factors that may contribute to this resilience, including emotional regulation and the functioning of the endocannabinoid system. However, the mechanisms behind these factors are still not fully understood.
The endocannabinoid system is a complex signaling system within our bodies that regulates a variety of processes including mood, appetite, pain, and inflammation. Its function can be affected by various factors such as stress, diet and genetics. It has also been implicated in the development of mental health disorders such as substance use disorders.
“Although much of the focus has been on addiction as a disease caused by the pursuit of hedonic effects and euphoria, for many it is the suppression of negative emotions, stress sensitivities, anxiety and depression. On this basis, we and others have suggested that when affected in childhood, the function of the brain’s distress system is altered and this contributes to addiction risk in adulthood. We theorized that it was possible,” said study author, professor and director Markus Heilig. PhD from Center for Social Emotional Neuroscience, Linköping University.
To study this further, the research team recruited 101 adults and divided them into four groups based on their lifetime experience of childhood abuse and substance use disorders. The groups were: (1) no child abuse or substance use disorders; (2) childhood abuse but no substance use disorder; (3) No childhood abuse but substance use disorder. (4) childhood abuse and substance use disorders;
This study combined questionnaires, physiological recordings and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to measure emotional control and endocannabinoid function. They found that people who experienced childhood abuse but did not develop a substance use disorder had higher levels of endocannabinoid function and better emotional control than those who did develop a substance use disorder. shown.
Specifically, the former group had higher levels of anandamide, a neurotransmitter involved in endocannabinoid function, lower levels of negative emotions, and a better ability to regulate emotions in response to stress. As can be seen, they showed better emotional control.
On the other hand, those who developed a substance use disorder had more neural activity in the amygdala, the brain region responsible for emotional processing, than those who did not develop a substance use disorder. This suggests that people with substance use disorders may have increased sensitivity to emotional stimuli, which increases their risk of developing the disorder.
These findings indicate that endocannabinoid function and emotional control are important factors for resilience in individuals who experienced childhood abuse and did not develop substance use disorders. This study provides evidence that these people may have protective mechanisms, including higher levels of anandamide and better emotional regulation. These findings have important implications for the development of interventions aimed at preventing substance use disorders in individuals who have experienced child abuse.
“Increased activity in specific regions of the brain in a resilient group that had been abused in childhood but did not develop addiction was associated with more adaptive ways of responding to emotional social information. We found that even in a resting state, they showed increased communication between the frontal lobe and the rest of the brain, suggesting that this group had better emotional control. may indicate that,” study author Irene Perini of Linköping University said in a news release.
However, this study had some limitations. The relatively small sample size of the adults involved may affect how applicable the findings are to the general population. Additionally, this study relied on self-reported scales to assess child abuse and substance use disorders, which may be biased. Finally, this study did not investigate other potential factors that contribute to resilience, such as social support and coping strategies.
Nonetheless, the results provide valuable insight into the mechanisms by which some people are less likely to develop substance use disorders after experiencing childhood abuse. This finding suggests that endocannabinoid function and emotional regulation play an important role in this resilience, highlighting the need for further research to better understand these mechanisms. . This study also has important implications for developing interventions to prevent substance use disorders in individuals who have experienced child abuse.
The study, entitled “Resilience to Substance Use Disorders after Child Abuse: Associations with Peripheral Biomarkers of Endocannabinoid Function and Neural Indicators of Emotional Regulation,” was published by Irene Perini, Leah M. Mayo, Andrea J. Capusan , Elisabeth R. Paul, Adam Yngve, Robin Campe, Emily Goffin, Reagan Mazurka, Bijar Ghafouri.
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