Effects of childhood physical abuse on course and severity of substance abuse

Joseph J Westermeyer, K. Wahmanholm, P. Thuras

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51 Scopus citations


The present study sought to assess the course and severity of Substance Related Disorder (SRD) in relation to childhood physical abuse (CPA) using retrospective data on CPA and current indices of substance use, abuse, and related morbidity. A total of 642 patients were assessed, of whom 195 (30.4%) experienced CPA, were assessed in two university medical centers with Alcohol-Drug Programs located within departments of psychiatry. A research assistant obtained demographic data, family history of substance abuse, problems related to substance abuse, and treatment of substance abuse. Data on severity included two measures of SRD-associated problems (one patient-rated and one psychiatristrated), substance abuse vs. dependence, self-help activities, and previous treatment. The study found that patients with CPA were more likely to be women, have lower socioeconomic status, and have more extended family members with substance abuse. Their substance abuse was more severe on five out of six severity measures. Patients with CPA showed more lifetime treatment on three out of four measures. Physical abuse during childhood resulted in a more morbid course of substance abuse later in adulthood. Although female gender and lower SES were both associated with CPA, the relationships were separate (ie, women did not have lower SES).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-110
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal on Addictions
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


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