When Dr. Vincent Felitti, head of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, began to delve into the reasons for the high dropout rate of patients who'd been successfully losing weight in Kaiser’s obesity program, he found to his surprise that a high proportion of those dropping out had histories of childhood abuse or neglect. Dr. Robert Anda, who had been doing research with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the psychosocial origins of health-risk behaviors in patients at VA hospitals, heard Felitti speak about his findings, and in 1992 the two began to collaborate on the largest-scale study to date of the incidence and effects of childhood trauma, known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.
According to data collected from the over 17,000 Kaiser patients in this ongoing retrospective and prospective study, adverse childhood experiences, though well concealed, are unexpectedly common, have a profound negative effect on adult health and well-being a half century later, and are a prime determinant of adult health status in the United States.
The Origins of Addiction: Evidence from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study
A population-based analysis of over 17,000 middle-class American adults undergoing comprehensive, biopsychosocial medical evaluation indicates that three common categories of addiction are strongly related in a proportionate manner to several specific categories of adverse experiences during childhood. This, coupled with related information, suggests that the basic cause of addiction is predominantly experience-dependent during childhood and not substance-dependent. This challenge to the usual concept of the cause of addictions has significant implications for medical practice and for treatment programs....
Our overall findings, presented extensively in the American literature, demonstrate that:
• Adverse childhood experiences are surprisingly common, although typically concealed and unrecognized.
• ACEs still have a profound effect 50 years later, although now transformed from psychosocial experience into organic disease, social malfunction, and mental illness.
• Adverse childhood experiences are the main determinant of the health and social well-being of the nation....
The current concept of addiction is ill founded. Our study of the relationship of adverse childhood experiences to adult health status in over 17,000 persons shows addiction to be a readily understandable although largely unconscious attempt to gain relief from well-concealed prior life traumas by using psychoactive materials
The Relation Between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adult Health: Turning Gold into Lead
The ACE Study reveals a powerful relation between our emotional experiences as children and our adult emotional health, physical health, and major causes of mortality in the United States. Moreover, the time factors in the study make it clear that time does not heal some of the adverse experiences we found so common in the childhoods of a large population of middle-aged, middle-class Americans. One doesn't "just get over" some things.