Childhood sexual trauma in men and subsequent substance abuse

Deborah Como-Kepler (1997)

Substance abuse is conceptualized, in part, as a symptom reflecting underlying dynamics in a person's psyche. One such contribution is thought to emanate from early childhood experiences, including sexual abuse. This connection to sexual abuse has not been directly addressed in traditional substance abuse treatment and is thought, by van der Kolk (1996), Miller (1994), Carnes (1994) and Evans and Sullivan (1995) to contribute to chronic relapsing by the substance abuser. In this study, childhood sexual trauma is viewed through the lens of psychodynamic theories that consider substance abuse in the context of psychopathology. In this study, two groups of 10 male substance abusers were compared: one group with a childhood history of sexual abuse and the other without a history of childhood sexual abuse. Both groups were administered the Bell Object Relations and Reality Inventory (BORRTI), which measures object relations. A semi-structured interview also was used to gather data about the subjects' interpersonal relationships, and substance and sexual abuse. The BORRTI reached no significant differences on the object relations between both group. However, an analysis of the interviews, indicated that the sexually abused group did have substantially more relapses than the group that had not been sexually abused.