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Abuse victims could be at greater risk for substance use relapse

June 10, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Adults who were abused in childhood could be more susceptible to substance abuse relapse because of reduced brain volume in critical regions, a new study suggests.

The study, conducted by Yale University School of Medicine researchers and published online this week in JAMA Psychiatry, found that individuals who reported being victims of child abuse had a reduction in brain cell volume in the hippocampal areas, which regulate emotion, learning and memory. Individuals with substance use problems who had lower brain volume in these regions had more severe relapse when compared with those with higher brain volume or with healthy controls.

These brain differences could constitute biological markers for identifying patients with a higher risk of relapsing, researchers said.

“As childhood trauma is highly common in substance abuse, addressing these trauma-related structural brain changes can help us develop better treatment plans to promote successful recovery from addiction,” said Rajita Sinha, senior author of the study and director of the Yale Stress Center.

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