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What’s Your ACE Score?

ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences and it correlates with many problems including major illnesses, mental health issues, and addiction. The basic ACE assessment is 10 questions about your negative experiences in childhood, things like whether you were abused, emotionally, physically, or sexually, whether you witnessed traumatic events, whether you felt neglected, or whether a parent struggled with mental health issues.

About two thirds of people score one or higher on the ACE assessment and there is a high likelihood that if you had one adverse childhood experience you’ve had others as well. Each additional adverse experience increases your chances of problems later on. If you score four or higher, you are at significantly higher risk of developing health problems such as pulmonary lung disease, hepatitis, cancer, heart disease, and depression. You are also more than 12 times more likely to commit suicide.

Given the much higher risk of developing depression and other mental health issues, it shouldn’t be surprising that a high ACE score also increases your risk of addiction. People with an ACE score of four or higher are twice as likely to smoke, and seven to 10 times more likely to become addicted to alcohol or other drugs. Those two figures likely account for much of the increased risk of pulmonary lung disease, heart disease, hepatitis, and cancer.

Every adverse childhood experience increases a child’s chronic stress. There are two reasons this translates into problems for adults. First, chronic stress is dangerous for everyone, and especially dangerous for children. It disrupts hormone balance, immune function, and cognitive development. A child under chronic stress is likely to have more health and cognitive development issues even assuming adequate nutrition and medical care, which is often lacking.

The other reason is that adverse experiences teach children unhealthy patterns and coping mechanisms. Children who grow up in unsafe environments often become withdrawn and isolated, which puts them at greater risk for depression and addiction. They might grow up and form codependent relationships, or cope with stress and traumatic memories through drinking and drug use. There is no shortage of ways an abusive or chaotic home life can affect a child down the road.

The good news is that there is also a resilience assessment and a high resilience score can hedge against the negative effects of ACEs. The resilience assessment includes questions like whether you felt loved and cared for at home, whether you had relatives you could discuss problems with, and whether there were people in your community who supported your family.

Many people are not aware of how much their negative childhood experiences affected them. The high correlation between ACE scores and addiction is yet more evidence compassion is the best way to approach addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.