Substance Use

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Substance Use and Sexual Abuse


Research has identified a variety of factors that put individuals at risk for substance use and abuse. These risk factors do not exist solely at the individual level but rather occur across multiple domains. Much of this research has focused on youths, given the strong association between adolescent substance use and delinquency, and the negative impacts of these problem behaviors into adulthood.

Table of Contents




Sexual abuse and substance use3

Potential pathways from sexual abuse to substance use6

Relationship between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse7

The Importance of Substance Abuse Prevention8

Risk Factors for Substance Abuse9



Substance Use and Sexual Abuse


In recent years the field of mental health has begun shifting away from the rigid and negative diagnostic definitions and expectations which have driven the traditional psychological and medical models and towards client centered approaches which are increasingly appropriate for each unique individual (Browne and Finkelhor 1986). Alternatives such as Recovery, Resilience and Wellness are driving emerging models of treatment and delivery bringing about first and second order change. Such emerging models recognize that the treatment of substance abuse and dependence can move far beyond the management and control of patient symptoms and towards full restoration of one's physical and emotional wellbeing. Substance abuse is also known as drug abuse which is a pattern of the usage of any kind of drugs or alcohol which makes a user dependent on its use for survival. This term has different definitions in different contexts but primarily refers to negativity of the use of drugs (Browne and Finkelhor 1986). The drugs that are often associated with substance abuse include alcohol, “barbiturates”, “amphetamines” and “methaqualone”. Usage of drugs leads to various kinds of harm in terms of social, physical and psychological harm and also leads to criminal penalty at times but this depends on the local jurisdiction of a country (Browne and Finkelhor 1986).


Over the past three decades, researchers have identified a broad range of negative outcomes associated with child sexual abuse. Undesirable after-effects span the areas of physical, behavioral and psychological health. Among some of the most widely researched sequelae are depression, posttraumatic stress, delinquency, and health risk behavior (Kilpatrick, Acierno, Saunders, Resnick, Best and Schnurr 2000). Many of these outcomes have severe consequences; depression can lead to suicide attempts, delinquency can result in criminal prosecution and/or imprisonment, and health risk behaviors such as smoking, substance use, and engaging in unsafe sex can impair health and foreshorten life expectancy. A number of these outcomes also pose risks for later re-victimization (Kilpatrick, Acierno, Saunders, Resnick, Best and Schnurr 2000). For example, sexual abuse among girls has been linked to subsequent drug use and alcohol abuse in adolescence and adulthood. These behaviors have, in turn, been linked to risk for rape in adulthood and the occurrence of physical violence in romantic partnerships.

Estimates of the prevalence of child sexual abuse in the United States tend to converge around 20%-30% for girls and 5%-10% for boys (Kilpatrick, Acierno, Saunders, Resnick, Best and Schnurr 2000). Estimates of the rate of sexual abuse among ...
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