The developmental view of addiction is very compelling. It says that addiction can be influenced by the environment as much as it can be by genes or medical issues. The ACE study in particular shows us that adverse childhood experiences are more common than we think, that they go unrecognized as a cause of physical and mental ill health by both the individual and wider society, and that they are still having pronounced effects on the victims’ decades later.
It also shows us that many of the diseases that cause early death – both addiction itself, and the chronic diseases that often arise out of it, such as lung cancer, heart disease, HIV and liver disease – most likely have significant roots in the childhood environment.
In sum, attachment theory has uncovered a strong link between childhood neglect and abandonment, and mental, emotional and behavioral health problems in adulthood.So there appears to be an undeniable link between childhood adversity and poor health outcomes in adults, particularly via the behavioral illnesses that we think of as ‘addictions’ (smoking, overeating, sexual impulsivity and heavy drug and alcohol use).