Screening Adults With Substance Use Disorder for Adverse Childhood Experiences

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Abstract

Objective:

The purpose of this study was to assess the incidence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the efficacy and feasibility of a trauma-informed screening for ACEs among individuals in a substance use disorder recovery program.

Method:

Individual interviews, questionnaires, and postinterview survey and reflections were used in this cross-sectional clinical translation project. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze demographics, ACE scores, protective childhood experiences, self-reported diagnoses, and postintervention survey data. Postinterview reflections were reviewed and grouped into common ideas as shared by participants, as well as interesting impressions, insights, and responses to the interviews.

Results:

Thirty clients participated in the interview process. Among the 29 participants who completed the questionnaires, all reported at least one ACE, and 82.8% reported six or more ACEs. In addition, 96.6% reported experiencing more than four protective factors. Twelve (40%) clients were referred for further mental health counseling after the interviews. Notable findings from the interviews were the general lack of awareness of the relationship between ACEs and current substance use disorder among participants. Gaining knowledge about the impact of ACEs on their recovery seemed to provide a sense of relief and a feeling that they were “normal.”

Conclusions:

The trauma-informed care approach is intended to promote mindfulness regarding the effect of ACEs on substance abuse in this population. Screening for ACEs is necessary if effective interventions are to be provided, with the goal of improving client outcomes.

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