03 July 2017

Childhood adversity, substance misuse and young people’s mental health: Expert briefing


Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are events that have a traumatic and lasting effect on young people.

Childhood adversity can include experiences of neglect, abuse or violence within the family, being forced to take on adult responsibilities (as in the case of young carers), or living in households where people are misusing substances.  A study of ACEs in England found that adults who had experienced four or more adversities in their childhood were two times more likely to binge drink, and eleven times more likely to have used crack cocaine or heroin.. 

This briefing provides local commissioners and service providers with a deeper understanding of childhood adversity and young people’s use of substance. It suggests ways of making local services trauma-informed, and better able to meet the mental health needs relating to substance misuse. 

These recommendations include: embedding psychoeducation into the local universal education offer, introducing routine enquiry within urgent and emergency care, and specialist drug and alcohol services, investing in early intervention models, developing targeted parental and whole family support models, and establishing  inter-agency collaboration.