Adverse Childhood Experiences Impact Us More Than We Might Think

Adverse Childhood Experiences can have a major impact on behavior and physical and mental health. The experiences one walks through as a child can affect development. Additionally, untreated trauma from adverse childhood experiences can present throughout one’s lifetime.

While it is true that some adverse experiences can build resiliency in children, often times untreated trauma can lead to major issues throughout childhood and into adulthood. Adverse experiences include, but are not limited to, the way a person was spoken to as a child by a parent, whether a person experienced physical or sexual abuse, whether a person felt loved or encouraged, whether a person experienced the divorce or separation of their parents, whether a person had a family member who was incarcerated, and whether a person had a parent who was addicted to drugs or alcohol or suffered from any mental disorders.

The first eighteen years of a person’s life are critical to development. At any given point, if that development is delayed or interrupted by any number of external factors, there could be a delayed response development resulting in behavioral and physical and mental health problems, including adopting coping mechanisms.

Please know that you are not alone! According to the CDC, about 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported that they had experienced at least one type of ACE, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types of ACEs. (


The first step to assessing your ACE Score is to take the questionnaire.

The most important thing to remember is that the ACE score is meant as a guideline: If you experienced other types of toxic stress over months or years, then those would likely increase your risk of health consequences.

Prior to your 18th birthday:

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  4. Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  5. Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  7. Was your mother or stepmother:
    Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?                        No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  10. Did a household member go to prison?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Now add up your “Yes” answers: _ This is your ACE Score

Remember, the higher your score, the more likely you may be at risk.

If you need to speak with someone, please know our psychiatrists are available to conduct an initial psychiatric evaluation to help start you on your road to recovery and healing. We have a team of medical doctors, including addiction specialists, nurses, and licensed counselors who also want the best for you. To find an office closest to you, please call 844-728-4929. We help people and we want to help you.

Five Tips for Alcoholics to Stay Sober

Friends struggling to stay sober

The arrival of summer brings warmer temperatures, which makes it perfect for outdoor events, such as weddings, backyard barbeques, and staff retreats. It’s a time when people will serve beer, wine and liquor and other beverages to celebrate with their loved ones. While this may not seem to be an issue for some people, it can be a major challenge for people recovering from alcoholism. Seeing other people drinking adult drinks may trigger their cravings for alcohol and cause a significant relapse. Here are alcohol sobriety tips for people in recovery.

1) Set the Limits

It’s not unusual for people recovering from alcoholism to attend numerous events all year where alcohol is not only served, it’s celebrated. Those in recovery should ask themselves whether they’ll be able to contain the urge despite the party atmosphere. There is no right or wrong answer, but the ability to resist the temptation will greatly determine whether they’ll remain sober. Often times, if they question whether or not they have the resolve, we suggest making a different set of plans that doesn’t involve alcohol and kindly decline attending a social function where alcohol is being served.

2) Find a Support System

It’s possible that 2020 may be filled with parties, which make a recovering person’s journey towards recovery more challenging. Former drinkers need to surround themselves with friends and family who value their well-being and their attempts to stave off the temptation of relapse. If possible, one should be accompanied by a friend to events where alcohol may be served for help refraining from indulging in alcohol consumption. Ex-drinkers should find like-minded persons to keep them company, encourage them, and remind them about how far they have come.

3) Have a Non-alcoholic Drink in Hand

During parties, people may keep offering alcoholic drinks to test a recovering person’s sobriety. Having a non-alcoholic drink in hand will prevent prying questions about the journey to sobriety. People can talk to the bartenders directly and ask them to avoid honoring requests of people who keep sending alcohol. It’s better to prepare for the future, rather than to react to the current situation.

4) Learn to Stay Alone

Struggling to stay sober is not a walk in the park. It is even worse if one has to attend parties where alcohol is freely flowing. This is not the time to feel sorry for being a loner. Instead, ex-drinkers should divert the stress by reminding themselves that it’s a choice they have made to improve their health. They should keep reminding themselves of the dangers of alcohol and focus on staying sober.

5) Create an Exit Strategy

Abstainers should know that they are not immune to tempting situations, and saying no to alcohol is the only way to stop them. Stay clear of places and people

that motivate you to drink. For those who develop a sudden craving for alcohol in the company of friends, an exit strategy is vital to keep them living without the bottle in hand. They should excuse themselves and leave if they are feeling the urge too strongly. It is okay to lie to avoid the temptation.

Staying sober will take great resilience on the part of people recovering from alcoholism because they will get invited to parties and see old drinking buddies. Some folks need to make new sober friends. It’s okay to decline invitations from people to events that are likely to offer alcohol. Contact Pathway Healthcare today for professional help and more sobriety tips.

The Teenage Brain – What to Know

Just like anyone who has raised children through adolescence, I have occasionally stood, scratching my head and looking at my kids after they’ve said or done something I found exasperating, and wondered, “What is wrong with that kid’s brain?”  If you have too, I have a possible answer for you.

The good news is that nothing is wrong with the typical teen’s brain that another decade or so of development and maturation won’t fix. An emerging body of research into brain development suggests that the adolescent brain is very much a “work in progress.”  And it’s now fairly clear: most of that work is not completed until at least age 25, and the final “finished product” is not done until age 40.

Consider the following:

  • Beginning in the preteen years, the brain undergoes a period of considerable growth and development which can be divided into three specific processes: proliferationpruning, and myelination.
  • These developmental processes consist of an increase in the size and number of uncovered brain cells (proliferation); a weeding out of the unnecessary brain cells (pruning); and then a covering of the remaining cells (myelination) to turn them into the “white matter” of the brain, which conducts brain messages more efficiently.
  • With the expansion of white matter comes a greater capacity for sophisticated brain activity. So you can think of this developmental process as turning the teenage brain into a “lean, mean thinking machine.”
  • All of this proceeds along the landscape of the brain in a predictable “back-to-front” pattern.  The parts of the brain located in the rear develop first. These are the parts – like the brainstem– that tend to control more basic and less sophisticated (but essential) functions like keeping you breathing and keeping your heart beating without you having to think about it.  The parts that control higher levels of brain function are located primarily in the front – the frontal lobes – and they develop last.  These are the structures that control functions like reasoning, making decisions, weighing out options, setting priorities, assuming responsibility and considering the possible consequences of one’s actions.  Remember, the bulk of this isn’t complete until at least age 25, with the full “project completion” not achieved until age 40 – that’s right, 40!

Keeping all of that in mind, here’s what we know about introducing alcohol and drugs into this developing brain…

  • Youngsters who start drinking alcohol, using addictive prescription medication, or illicit drugs during the early teen years – which is when pruning is occurring – are more likely to engage in binge drinking and developing a dependence to the dug in use.
  • Such heavy use of alcohol and drugs during that same period may render kids more susceptible to the damaging effects of alcohol drug use on learning and memory.
  • The earlier young people start drinking and using, the more likely they are to develop problem drinking or even develop the disease of alcoholism or drug addiction.

So what do we make of all of this? It’s simple. Your teenager’s brain is still very much “under construction” until long after she becomes an “adult.”  Introducing alcohol and drug usage into this complicated developing machinery is, at best, a bad idea.  So don’t be afraid to lay down the law to your teen: “NO alcohol, NO drugs – not even one drop – until you are at least 21 years old! NO exceptions – not even at weddings or on New Year’s Eve!”  Go ahead.  You’re not being unreasonable or extremist.  In fact, you have medical science on your side.  (Actually, when you consider the science, you realize that 21 is truly a “liberal” and “lenient” drinking age!) Your teen may not thank you for being a stickler for the “lenient” drinking age of 21, but her brain will really appreciate it!

– Dr. Steve


  1. Herrman, J. (2005). The Teen Brain as a Work in Progress: Implications for Pediatric Nurses. Pediatric Nursing, Retrieved December 30, 2005, from
  2. Miller, M. et. al. (2005) Adolescents and Binge Drinking: A Clinical Approach (Archived Web Conference). Retrieved January 2, 2006, from
  3. National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH). (2001). Teenage brain: A work in progress. Retrieved December 18, 2005, from
  4. Spear, L.P. (2002). The adolescent brain and the college drinker: Biological basis of propensity to misuse alcohol. Journal of Studies on Alcohol,63 (2), 571 – 582.