Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: At the core of all addictions is abuse.
Author: Fraser Trevor
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At the core of all addictions is abuse. By abuse we mean emotional loss in childhood, and in the case of severe addicts, you can see — an...
At the core of all addictions is abuse. By abuse we mean emotional loss in childhood, and in the case of severe addicts, you can see — and large-scale population studies show — that there is significant childhood abuse such as family violence, addiction in the family, sexual and emotional abuse, physical abuse, a parent being mentally ill or in jail. These adverse childhood experiences have been shown to exponentially increase the risk of addiction later on in life. That’s one set of difficult experiences.

There’s another set of difficult experiences that’s a bit harder to distinguish, and that’s not when bad things happen but when good things don’t happen. A child has certain fundamental needs for emotional development and also for brain development. 

If you look at the human brain, it develops under the impact of the environment. The potentials are genetically set, but which genes are turned on and off depends very much on the environment. So for example, in the case of addiction, the brain’s reward circuitry is impaired… the person’s circuits, which have to do with the chemical dopamine and which give you a sense of reward incentive and motivation, are not well-developed. Those circuits need the support of the environment to help them in their development, and the essential quality of the environment is a mutually responsive relationship with the parent or caregiver.


So in families where the parents are overly stressed or aren’t able to be emotionally present with the children, in the case of sensitive children, that can interfere with their brain development. 

The children will look for reward elsewhere.The Child will dissociate When we’re looking at psychological pain at the heart of all addictions and addictive behaviours, they have one intended purpose: to soothe pain or to escape from pain or stress. So whether we’re looking at the psychological side of addiction, which is needing to escape from pain or stress, or the brain physiology side, which is the underdeveloped reward circuits in the brain, we’re looking at the impact of our childhood.

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