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Sexual abuse in childhood and subsequent illicit drug abuse in adolescence and early adulthood

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2014

Shay Keating
National Drug Treatment Centre Board
John J O'Connor
National Drug Treatment Centre Board, Trinity Court, 30/31 Pearse St, Dublin 2, Ireland.


Objectives: This study examines the frequency of childhood sexual abuse and physical abuse in a cohort of opiate addicted patients and looks at clinical correlates in those abused.

Method: Fifty-two consecutive patients attending an out patient drug treatment programme were interviewed using a semi-structured technique. Demographic details, details of schooling, marital status and number of children were recorded. The duration of drug abuse, age of onset of opiate abuse, early life experiences of both child sex abuse and childhood violence and a family history of alcohol abuse were also investigated.

Results: 21.2% of patients gave a history of sex abuse, with 23.1% of patients having a history of exposure to violence as a child. Those exposed to sex abuse had an earlier age of onset of opiate injection. A correlation between parental alcohol abuse and sex abuse and violence was noted.

Conclusions: A history of child sex abuse was associated with earlier onset of opiate abuse in this group of patients. The relatively frequent incidence of abuse and violence in those with opiate abuse must be born in mind when providing treatment. The addressing of issues relating only to addiction leaves earlier traumas continuing to exert an influence on the patient.

Original Papers
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1998

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