An abusive childhood leads to personality changes that, in turn, increase risk of drug addiction later in life, according to a study by University of Cambridge researchers.

Previous research had suggested that children who lack self-control are at high risk of developing drug addiction later in life. Now, researchers have found that children who face abuse are more likely to lack self-control and be impulsive than others.

"It has long been known that abusive experiences during childhood have long-lasting effects on behaviour in adulthood and this was confirmed by our results," said Dr. Karen Ersche, of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI) at the University of Cambridge.

In the present study, researchers analyzed behavior pattern of 50 adults with cocaine dependence and their non-drug user siblings. All participants' personality and their childhood experience was assessed.

Researchers found that traumatic childhood shaped a person's personality.

"The siblings had more troubled childhoods compared to healthy peers in the community, and we also found a direct relationship between traumatic childhoods and their personalities," said Dr. Ersche.

Researchers say that an impulsive personality may not be an excuse of somebody abusing drugs.

"This relationship is interesting because impulsive personality traits are known to increase the risk of becoming addicted to drugs but it is not an excuse for drug-taking," Dr. Ersche said.

In the next part of the study, researchers will try and find out how siblings of the drug users kept-off drugs despite having a troubled childhood. The research may provide newer ways of handling people who are at risk of developing a drug addiction.

"Not all individuals with these personality traits would have had a traumatic upbringing. Nor does everyone with these traits develop an addiction. However, our findings show that some people are particularly at risk and their upbringing may have contributed to it," added Dr. Ersche.

Childhood abuse has previously been linked to several chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Effects of trauma faced in childhood stays in later life due to the changes in immune response and increased levels of stress factors. In women, child abuse can lead to early or late menarche.

The study was published in the Americal Journal of Psychiatry.