Objective. Illicit drug use is identified in Healthy People 2010 as a leading health indicator because it is associated with multiple deleterious health outcomes, such as sexually transmitted diseases, human immunodeficiency virus, viral hepatitis, and numerous social problems among adolescents and adults. Improved understanding of the influence of stressful or traumatic childhood experiences on initiation and development of drug abuse is needed. Methods. We examined the relationship between illicit drug use and 10 categories of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and total number of ACEs (ACE score). A retrospective cohort study of 8613 adults who attended a primary care clinic in California completed a survey about childhood abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction; illicit drug use; and other health-related issues. The main outcomes measured were self-reported use of illicit drugs, including initiation during 3 age categories: ≤14 years, 15 to 18 years, or as an adult (≥19 years); lifetime use for each of 4 birth cohorts dating back to 1900; drug use problems; drug addiction; and parenteral drug use. Results. Each ACE increased the likelihood for early initiation 2- to 4-fold. The ACE score had a strong graded relationship to initiation of drug use in all 3 age categories as well as to drug use problems, drug addiction, and parenteral drug use. Compared with people with 0 ACEs, people with ≥5 ACEs were 7- to 10-fold more likely to report illicit drug use problems, addiction to illicit drugs, and parenteral drug use. The attributable risk fractions as a result of ACEs for each of these illicit drug use problems were 56%, 64%, and 67%, respectively. For each of the 4 birth cohorts examined, the ACE score also had a strong graded relationship to lifetime drug use. Conclusions. The ACE score had a strong graded relationship to the risk of drug initiation from early adolescence into adulthood and to problems with drug use, drug addiction, and parenteral use. The persistent graded relationship between the ACE score and initiation of drug use for 4 successive birth cohorts dating back to 1900 suggests that the effects of adverse childhood experiences transcend secular changes such as increased availability of drugs, social attitudes toward drugs, and recent massive expenditures and public information campaigns to prevent drug use. Because ACEs seem to account for one half to two third of serious problems with drug use, progress in meeting the national goals for reducing drug use will necessitate serious attention to these types of common, stressful, and disturbing childhood experiences by pediatric practice.
Background. The relationship between boyhood exposure to physical abuse, sexual abuse, or to a battered mother and subsequent risk of impregnating a teenage girl has not previously been examined. Methods. In a retrospective cohort study set in a primary care clinic for adult members of a large health maintenance organization, questionnaire responses from 4127 men were analyzed. Respondents provided the age of the youngest female whom they had impregnated, their own ages at the time, and information regarding childhood exposure to physical or sexual abuse and battered mothers. We calculated the prevalence and adjusted odds ratio (OR) for having impregnated a teenage girl according to these 3 adverse childhood experiences, regardless of the male's age at the time of impregnation. Using logistic regression, ORs were adjusted for the male's age at time of survey, race, and education. Results. Nineteen percent of the men reported that they had ever impregnated a teenage girl. During childhood, 32% of respondents had been physically abused, 15% sexually abused, and 11% had battered mothers. Compared with respondents reporting no abuse, frequent physical abuse or battering of mothers increased the risk of involvement in teen pregnancy by 70% (OR: 1.7; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.2–2.5) and 140% (OR: 2.4; 95% CI: 1.1–5.0), respectively. Sexual abuse as a boy at age 10 years or younger increased the risk of impregnating a teenage girl by 80% (OR: 1.8; 95% CI: 1.3–2.4); sexual abuse with violence increased the risk by 110% (OR: 2.1; 95% CI: 1.2–3.4). We found a dose–response relationship between the number of types of exposures and the risk of impregnating a teenage girl; men who reported all 3 types of exposures were more than twice as likely to have been involved than those with no exposures (OR: 2.2; 95% CI: 1.4–3.5). Conclusions. Boyhood exposure to physical or sexual abuse or to a battered mother is associated with an increased risk of involvement in a teen pregnancy—during both adolescence and adulthood. Because these exposures are common and interrelated, boys and adult men who have had these experiences should be identified via routine screening by pediatricians and other health care providers and counseled about sexual practices and contraception. Such efforts may prevent teen pregnancy and the intergenerational transmission of child abuse and domestic violence.