Home > Early life stress and substance use disorders: the critical role of adolescent substance use.

Kirsch, Dylan E and Lippard, Elizabeth T C (2022) Early life stress and substance use disorders: the critical role of adolescent substance use. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior, 215, 173360. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2022.173360.

External website: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC89835...

Early life stress (ELS) is a well-established risk factor for many psychiatric and medical disorders, including substance use disorders (SUDs). The relationship between ELS and SUDs is complex and there are likely multiple pathways from ELS to adverse substance use outcomes. The association between ELS and substance use emerges in adolescence. Adolescence is a critical period in development during which substance exposure markedly increases risk for SUDs. Therefore, this review focuses on the literature supporting the hypothesis that ELS increases risk for the development of SUDs through its influence on adolescent substance use.

We discuss studies substantiating the role of ELS in adolescent substance use and explore how internalizing and externalizing psychopathology may be antecedents of substance use in adolescence. We examine clinical work suggesting ELS sculpts the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis and developing brain-particularly subcortical brain regions that underlie stress response, mesocorticolimbic brain systems associated with reward sensitivity, and prefrontal regions that underlie executive control-in a way that increases risk for adolescent substance use and SUDs. We further explore how substance use during adolescence alters structure and function of these same systems, and how brain changes following ELS and adolescent substance use may independently, additively, or interactively contribute to risk for addiction. We conclude by discussing how the current literature can inform interventions aimed at reducing risk for SUDs in individuals with a history of ELS.

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