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.

Veterans and Addiction


Each day, an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide; addiction is a leading cause.

Deployment, combat, and reintegration challenges are among many stressors that veterans may endure that could lead to a substance use disorder.

“The most prevalent types of substance use problems among male and female veterans include heavy, episodic drinking and cigarette smoking.” [a]

“Yet, the onset of substance use disorders can also emerge secondary to other mental health problems associated with these stressors, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.” [a]

Co-occurring mental health disorders are prevalent among today’s veterans who receive treatment for substance use disorders.

Statistically, a veteran with PTSD or some other mental health disorder is more likely to receive an opioid prescription than those without mental health diagnoses. Those with PTSD often are prescribed higher doses of opioids and are more likely to receive refills easily. This means a veteran with PTSD who is taking opioids for treatment are more likely to be diagnosed with an opioid use disorder; which could trigger other unfortunate outcomes such as frequent emergency room visits, opioid-related accidents, over-doses, inpatient admission, and further injuries.

A veteran with PTSD may also be prescribed anti-anxiety medication. Anti-depressant medication can often be highly addictive. Some physicians actively prescribe non-addictive, anti-anxiety medications to prevent patients from developing a dependence which will often lead to addiction. (Pathway Healthcare’s CMO, Dr. Stephen Taylor, speaks more to the topic of addiction to anti-anxiety medication in this article.)

Very few veterans use illicit drugs. This may be due to the possibility of it leading to a dishonorable discharge. Alcohol use disorder is very prevalent due to military culture. Veterans that experienced high levels of combat exposure are more likely to engage in heavy drinking at 26% and 54 % binge drink in comparison to other military personnel. [a]

When co-occurring disorders exist, treatment for both addiction and mental illness is necessary to address the underlying causes and symptoms of each. SAMHSA suggests an integrated treatment approach for substance use and mental illness interventions. Treatment is available for both disorders but must be addressed as an individual condition. If not, one or both of the conditions may persist. Substance use disorder treatment services are accessible to veterans through VA Medical Centers (VAMC) across the country. For veterans not connected with a local VAMC, and even when they are, access to care can be difficult. This is why we at Pathway Healthcare exist – to increase access to care and to help people who need treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring conditions. MAT Plus® is our treatment approach that combines both medication-assisted treatment and behavioral health integrative services. If you or someone you love is suffering from a dependence, substance use disorder, chronic pain or mental health disorder contact us or find a location near you.