Download Full Text (4.5 MB)



Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) encompass a variety of traumatic events that occur during one’s youth. ACEs may be physical, mental, emotional, or sexual in nature, and they are often associated with long-term negative consequences such as alcoholism, substance abuse, and criminal justice involvement. The global rise of the opioid epidemic has intensified the need to better understand and address factors associated with illicit substance use. The current study will investigate the relationship between exposure to ACEs, onset of drug use, and history of drug overdose.


This study will utilize an observational design in which participants will be asked to complete a self-report questionnaire. The sample will comprise of male and female individuals housed in a local suburban jail. The study aims to recruit 350 participants. The survey will collect data regarding childhood experiences, age at first drug use, history of drug use, and drug overdose. Gender, race, and age differences will be examined.


The current study is part of an ongoing research project. Using descriptive and explanatory statistics, preliminary results will be presented.


While prior literature has explored the relationship between ACEs, morbidity, and mortality, the current study aims to explore whether ACEs are associated with onset of drug use and drug overdose. ACEs and substance abuse issues are prevalent amongst incarcerated people, and risk of overdose is particularly high in this population. Findings may lend insight into the need for trauma-informed interventions within the community and the criminal justice system.

Publication Date



Adverse childhood experiences, Overdose, Incarceration, Addiction, Substance abuse treatment, Opioid epidemic, Trauma-informed interventions, Criminal justice system


Other Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social Policy | Social Work

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Amy Cook and Dr. Nancy Morris

Is Part Of

VCU Graduate Research Posters

Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Risk of Drug Overdose in Adulthood