The Link between Childhood Trauma and Dissociation in Frequent Users of Psychedelics and Dissociatives

Research suggests clear associations between the severity of childhood trauma, levels of substance use and dissociation - the detachment or disruption to normal consciousness. Despite the apparent link, it remains unclear whether the level of substance use can, in some part, explain the relationship between trauma severity and the extent of dissociation.

A recent study, published in the Journal of Substance Use, has investigated whether substance use significantly influences the link between childhood trauma and the severity of depersonalization - a common symptom of dissociation involving changes in perception and emotion processing.

Participants completed online questionnaires that collected information about childhood abuse, depersonalization severity and substance use.

Results found that

  • Dissociation severity, in the form of depersonalization, is predicted by both the severity of childhood trauma and the use of illicit substances.
  • The link between traumatic childhood experiences and dissociation was not, however, moderated by the quantity of classic psychedelics or dissociatives used by participants.
  • Differences in dissociation severity were explained more by childhood trauma than substance use.

Overall the study adds further evidence to support the link between childhood trauma and dissociation. The researchers suggest that it may be the context of substance use rather than the quantity of substance use that influence severity dissociation.

Sascha B. Thal, Judith K. Daniels & Henrik Jungaberle (2019) The link between childhood trauma and dissociation in frequent users of classic psychedelics and dissociatives, Journal of Substance Use, 24:5, 524-531, DOI: 10.1080/14659891.2019.1614234