Adverse Childhood Experiences and Overdose: Lessons From Overdose Data to Action

Am J Prev Med. 2022 Jun;62(6 Suppl 1):S40-S46. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2021.11.015.


Introduction: Adverse childhood experiences and overdose are linked in a cycle that affects individuals and communities across generations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Overdose Data to Action cooperative agreement supports a comprehensive public health approach to overdose prevention and response activities across the U.S. Exposure to traumatic events during childhood can increase the risk for myriad health outcomes, including overdose; therefore, many Overdose Data to Action recipients leveraged funds to address adverse childhood experiences.

Methods: In 2021, an inventory of Overdose Data to Action‒funded activities implemented in 2019 and 2020 showed that 34 of the 66 recipients proposed overdose prevention activities that support people who have experienced adverse childhood experiences or that focus on preventing the intergenerational transmission of adverse childhood experiences. Activities were coded by adverse childhood experience prevention strategy, level of the social ecology, and whether they focused on neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Results: Most activities among Overdose Data to Action recipients occurred at the community level of the social‒ecologic model and under the intervene to lessen harms adverse childhood experience prevention strategy. Of the 84 adverse childhood experience‒related activities taking place across 34 jurisdictions, 44 are focused on neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Conclusions: Study results highlight the opportunities to expand the breadth of adverse childhood experience prevention strategies across the social ecology. Implementing cross-cutting overdose and adverse childhood experience‒related activities that span the social‒ecologic model are critical for population-level change and have the potential for the broadest impact. Focusing on neonatal abstinence syndrome also offers a unique intervention opportunity for both adverse childhood experience and overdose prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Drug Overdose* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome*
  • Public Health