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Can the ACE Test Predict Addiction?

by | Published on Apr 8, 2020 | Health and Wellness, Mental Health

ACE Test and Addiction

While there are countless early addiction signs we can spot in our children, wouldn’t a test be incredible? The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) questionnaire might potentially help parents predict the risk of addiction. Of course, many people without the indicators found on this test will develop a substance use disorder. As well as many who might fit the profile will go on to live healthy lives. 

What is the ACE Test?

In the 1990s, the CDC and Kaiser Permanente conducted one of the most extensive studies on childhood trauma ever completed using the “ACE questionnaire.” ACE stands for “adverse childhood experiences,” the idea is to analyze trauma in early life. 

The ACE study gives people an ACE score is a tally of different types of abuse, neglect, and other pointers of a challenging childhood. Based on the test, the higher the number, the more likely someone will be at risk for health problems like addiction in the future. 

How is the ACE Test Performed?

The ACE contains questions about childhood experiences. Participants identify whether they experienced abuse, neglect, an unstable environment, or other painful experiences before the age of 18. 

These experiences result in a score, which then adds up to result in an “ACE score.” The higher the ACE score, the more traumatic or painful experiences the person had as a child. The implications of a high ACE score can last a lifetime- but there is hope for reversing the cycle.

Types of Adverse Childhood Experiences

The test evaluates different types of ACEs through the questionnaire. However, a professional therapist can better assess these experiences’ severity and the trauma toll on the individual. The most common types of ACEs include:

  • Abuse: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse
  • Neglect: physical and emotional
  • Household dysfunctions: mental illness, toxic stress, incarcerated relative, substance abuse, divorce, and violence

Find Out Your ACE Score [Quiz]

You can find your ACE score with a simple 10-question questionnaire that explores the different ACEs you might have been exposed to during your childhood. To get reliable answers, you must answer the following questions honestly and realistically. Remember, this quiz is just a guideline. You still need to talk to a licensed counselor about your previous trauma experience. 

Impacts of a High ACE Score

Studies show that high ACE scores correlate to substance abuse, mental illness, and poor health. Children with high scores have higher rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicide attempts. They also experience higher rates of substance addiction and chronic health problems, such as cancer and diabetes. 

Experts believe this is also a result of the impact of stress chemicals on the brain. When someone experiences something traumatic, the brain floods the body with stress hormones. As a result, repeated, long-term exposure to stress hormones can damage the body.

Behavioral risks of a high ACE score:

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Alcoholism
  • Drug use
  • Missed work or school

Physical and mental health risks of a high ACE score:

  • Severe obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Broken bones
  • COPD
  • Depression
  • Suicidal behavior
  • STDs

Treating Trauma

Of course, a high ACE score doesn’t mean someone is bound to struggle with substance abuse. There are people with high ACE scores who do remarkably well. Just like there are others with low scores who will struggle in the future.

Addressing past trauma is paramount in drug and alcohol addiction treatment. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we strive for this by focusing on offering trauma processing groups and sessions using various approaches. We also provide psychiatric services to help patients manage mental health concerns. We are proud to focus on treating the whole person rather than just the symptoms of addiction. To learn more about our trauma and addiction program, give us a call today.

Molly

Molly

Molly is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Case Manager and Vocational Services. She has a Bachelor’s in International Relations, is a Certified Addiction Counselor, and it’s currently working towards her Master’s in Social Work. Molly’s experience allows her to provide expert knowledge about solution-based methods to help people in recovery maintain long-term sobriety.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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