Blue Knot Foundation Blog

Check out our recent blog posts to stay up to date with our work, latest research and articles curated by the Blue Knot Foundation Marketing & Communications team. Should you have any suggestions or contributions please contact us via email: marketing@blueknot.org.au.

Apr
24

“We treat people’s solutions as problems.”  Vincent Felitti MD, eminent author of the original ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study, often makes this point when discussing how we focus on eliminating people’s desperate means of coping, without recognizing their adaptive functions.   When addressing substance abuse (the most common method of tolerating overwhelming fear and pain) do we commit the same error of attempting to control the “solution” while largely ignoring the underlying core problems associated with traumatic exposures?  For many people with struggling with addictions, substance abuse represents survival.

The linkage between ACE’s and trauma and substance abuse disorders (SUD’s) is compelling.  In his paper, Origins of Addiction, Felitti reports that people who experience 4 or more ACE’s are 500% more likely to abuse alcohol.  People who report five ACE’s or more are 7 to 10 times more likely to report illicit drug abuse. A jaw-dropping data point indicates that individuals who survive 6 or more ACE’s are 46 times more likely to be IV drug abusers than people who report no ACE’s.  Trauma truly is the “gateway drug” to addictions.

Kanwarpal Dhaliwal and the youth at RYSE (Richmond Youth Services) have amplified the ACE’s pyramid to include the toxic impacts of social conditions and local contexts such as poverty, racism and historical trauma.  This expanded view helps us recognize that it’s not just what has happened to you, but what environmental stressors and social conditions you inhabit.  As attention has turned to the “opioid crisis”, it would seem to be no coincidence that the communities most affected are beset by high rates of unemployment, poverty, and social isolation. In contrast to the reductive medical model, the ACE’s/trauma informed approach encompasses neighborhoods as much as neurons, zip codes more than genetic codes.

Some substance abuse programs and mental health agencies have begun integrating the ACE’s questionnaire into their initial assessments.  What might be the potential impacts of incorporating enhanced ACE’s informed perspectives into treatment?

  • Asking about childhood maltreatment, listening and offering empathy represents a significant intervention in itself. Simple, straightforward human compassion for human suffering and distress can be healing.
  • Inviting people who abuse substances to be “compassionately curious” about themselves and to connect the dots between their unseen wounds and their attempts to cope with overwhelming distress can provide relief and self-understanding. (This is often a long-term, life-time process.)
  • Instilling hope for a better future is an essential ingredient for recovery. “What can be hurt can be healed”, seems to illuminate this pathway much more than “you have an incurable, life-long brain disease.
  • Empowering people to take responsibility for owning their own stories and writing (and rewriting) new chapters. Talk of genetic predispositions and chemical imbalances can engender passivity and resignation.
  • Supporting meaning making and setting the stage for post-traumatic growth.
  • Emphasizing the central need for social supports and human connection. In his enlightening TED talk - Johann Hari asks this challenging question; “what if the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but the opposite of addiction is connection? A key aspect of reducing substance abuse is how well we can help people develop their social networks.
  • Reminding us all that unless we also vigorously address issues such as social justice, poverty and racism – our progress will be limited.

 

See Article originally published here. 

Comments

Merry
Wednesday, 26 April 2017 5:41 PM
ACEs information, plus the two tests, is the place all good therapists should start with, so thank you for the article.
Ah, we move slowly. This pertinent info has been available for years. Not perfect but a great place to start. Can do self administered test and the very relevant partnering of the resilience score on acestoohigh.com

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Testimonials

“Blue Knot Foundation has a key role to play in the building of community capacity in care provision to those who have experienced childhood abuse and trauma in any environment.”

NIALL MULLIGAN Manager, Lifeline Northern Rivers

“I think Blue Knot Foundation is a fantastic support organisation for people who have experienced childhood trauma/abuse, for their families/close friends and for professionals who would like to learn how to more effectively work with these people.”

Psychologist Melbourne

“It's such a beautiful thing that you are doing. Helping people to get through this.”

ANONYMOUS

“It was only last September when I discovered the Blue Knot Foundation website and I will never forget the feeling of support and empathy that I received when I finally made the first phone call to Blue Knot Helpline, which was also the first time I had ever spoken about my abuse.”

STEVEN

"At last there is some sound education and empathetic support for individuals and partners impacted by such gross boundary violations.”

TAMARA

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