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Substance Abusers With PTSD Face Poorer Outcomes

Finding shows half with drug dependence also have post-traumatic stress disorder.

TUESDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) -- A new study offers more evidence of a strong association between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse.

The German study included 459 people who sought help for either alcohol dependence (39.7 percent), drug dependence (33.6 percent), or both (26.8 percent).

The researchers found that up to half of people who sought help for substance abuse disorders (SUDs) had PTSD and that having PTSD predicted a more severe course and worse outcome for an SUD, such as more family problems, less employment, and more serious psychological symptoms.

The frequency of PTSD was higher among those with drug dependence.

"We found prevalence of PTSD that was roughly double, around 30 percent, in drug-dependent subjects than that found in alcohol-dependent subjects, at about 15 percent," corresponding author Martin Driessen, a professor of psychiatry at Ev. Hospital Bielefeld, said in a prepared statement. "Although we expected this, based on previous research, we were somewhat surprised to find such a high difference between drug and alcohol dependence."

He said the "study didn't show whether PTSD was a cause of consequence of drug dependence in individual subjects."

The study also found that the link between PTSD and SUDs was stronger in patients with a definitive PTSD diagnosis than in those with probable PTSD. A trauma experience that did not cause PTSD was not associated with an SUD.

The findings were published in the March issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The researchers recommended that doctors examine patients with an SUD to determine if PTSD is an underlying factor.
 

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