Substance abuse and dependency is avoidant behavior used by sexual abuse victims to escape the pain and unwanted emotions associated with abuse. Because alcohol and other drugs are physically addictive, the progression of use leads to self-destructive consequences. Most studies that look at long-term conseqences of child sexual abuse find that substances are used at much higher rates. The likelihood of drug abuse is said to be 10 times higher for someone who has experienced child sexual abuse (Brierre and Rutz, 1987). Alcohol and drugs are also used to self-medicate symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study shows that children who have been sexually abused are much more likely to develop addictions.

Addiction may be defined as anything that compulsively occupies the mind in a way that results in negative life consequences. The person is no longer able to control the substance. Drugs of choice are used habitually and compulsively and have life-altering and life-threatening consequences. Examples are alcohol, cocaine, heroin, methamphatamine, marijuana, narcotic pain medications, and tobacco. 

Activities can also be addictions, and these are called process addictions because they involve behavioral choices instead of ingesting a substance into the system. Examples: 
  • Sexual addiction
  • Relationship addiction
  • Gambling
  • Computer or internet addiction
  • Work
  • Shopping
  • Sports

The human being can become addicted to almost any behavior or substance. William Glasser (1976 ) talked about positive addictions, such as running and meditation, which are effective coping strategies that result in positive consequences.   


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