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Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Provided by SAMHSA

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect. They may also include household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who have substance use disorders. ACEs are strongly related to the development and prevalence of a wide range of health problems throughout a person’s lifespan, including those associated with substance misuse.

ACEs include:


  • Physical abuse

  • Sexual abuse

  • Emotional abuse

  • Physical neglect

  • Emotional neglect

  • Intimate partner violence

  • Mother treated violently

  • Substance misuse within household

  • Household mental illness

  • Parental separation or divorce

  • Incarcerated household member


ACEs are a good example of the types of complex issues that the prevention workforce often faces. The negative effects of ACEs are felt throughout the nation and can affect people of all backgrounds. Successfully addressing their impact requires:

  • Assessing prevention needs and gathering data

  • Effective and sustainable prevention approaches guided by applying the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF)

  • Prevention efforts aligned with the widespread occurrence of ACEs

  • Building relationships with appropriate community partners through strong collaboration


Preventing ACEs and engaging in early identification of people who have experienced them could have a significant impact on a range of critical health problems

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