Advance in traumatic stress treatment

Drug abuse should not stop people who also suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from receiving psychological treatment, a new study suggests.
The researchers found that people with PTSD and substance abuse issues benefited from treatment involving exposure to traumatic memories, called prolonged exposure therapy, whilst at the same time treating their drug use.
Dr Katherine Mills from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW said the study results were significant because people with drug problems were often excluded from PTSD treatment.
“Currently a majority of people with substance use disorders are excluded from receiving PTSD treatment as there is a widely held view that patients need to be abstinent before any trauma work, let alone prolonged exposure therapy, can be undertaken,” Mills said.
She said that this is often very difficult to achieve as patient’s trauma symptoms tend to resurfaces when they stop using, AAP reported.
But by using an integrated treatment program researchers found that people who suffer from both PTSD and substance abuse can be treated successfully.
The study randomly assigned 103 patients to either the integrated therapy or a control group, where participants received standard treatment for substance use only.
Those who received the integrated therapy had a significantly greater reduction in PTSD symptoms than those in the control group over the nine-month period. The most commonly used substances amongst the patients included benzodiazepine, cannabis and alcohol followed by heroin, amphetamines, other opiates, cocaine, hallucinogens and inhalants.
Importantly, there was also no increased in substance use among those who revisited their trauma during therapy.

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