The Impact of Trauma Experiences on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Use Disorder Symptom Severity in a Treatment-Seeking Sample

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Comorbid diagnoses of substance use disorders (SUDs) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are quite high among individuals seeking residential SUD treatment, and are associated with both poor treatment engagement and outcomes. The current study examines the impact of trauma type (e.g., Criterion A/non-Criterion A; substance-related/non-substance-related) on subjective distress and concurrent PTSD and SUD symptom severity in a sample of 50 trauma survivors seeking residential treatment for substance use. Results suggest that Criterion A events were consistently endorsed as the most subjectively distressing experiences by participants, and a substantial minority of participants endorsed substance-related traumatic experiences as their most subjectively distressing experience. However, neither Criterion A status, nor the substance-related nature of the traumatic experience, were systematically related to PTSD or SUD symptom severity. These results replicate previous findings illustrating the high prevalence of trauma experiences in a SUD treatment-seeking population. Further, they emphasize the importance of assessing and discussing a broad array of traumatic events that individuals with SUDs may face, and simultaneously addressing substance use and PTSD in treatment-seeking populations. Clinical implementation strategies and study limitations are discussed.

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