Drug Abuse & PTSD

Treating people with post traumatic stress and addiction

(RxWiki News) Treating post-traumatic stress disorder can be tough when adding in substance dependence. New treatment methods have shown promise in helping both issues.

A recent study tested an integrated therapy technique on a small group.

Results showed that it is possible to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in people with substance dependence successfully.

"Talk to your doctor if you have post-traumatic stress disorder."

Katherine L. Mills, PhD, from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, led a study to test the effectiveness of integrated therapy for addicts with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

For the study, 103 participants that had both PTSD and substance dependence were treated for nine months.

The group was split into the integrated group, 55 people, and the control group, 48 people.

The integrated group underwent a special Substance Use Disorders Using Prolonged Exposure (COPE) treatment with a clinical psychologist for 13 one-on-one 90-minute sessions, and regular treatment for substance dependence.

The control group underwent only the regular treatment for substance dependence.

Each person was assessed at baseline, six-weeks, three- and nine-months for PTSD and substance dependence.

PTSD is often treated with exposure therapy. There is concern when treating PTSD in cases that also have substance dependence issues.

Clinicians fear that the exposure therapy will cause the substance abuse to flare up as a coping mechanism.

The aim of this study was to see if the integrated therapy sessions of COPE would produce better results with both PTSD and substance dependence.

Results of the study showed a 38-point reduction in PTSD symptoms for the COPE group compared to a 22-point reduction in the regular therapy group.

There were no significant differences found in increase or reduction of substance abuse, depression or anxiety in either group.

Authors said, “These findings challenge the widely held view that patients need to be abstinent (drug-free) before any trauma work, let alone prolonged exposure therapy, is commenced.”

“Although we agree that patients need to show some improvement in their substance use and an ability to use alternative coping strategies before prolonged exposure therapy is initiated, findings from this study demonstrate that abstinence is not required.”

This study was published in August in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Funding for this study was provided by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, no conflicts of interest were found.

Review Date: 
August 13, 2012