Perceptions of Neighborhood Mediate the Relationship Between PTSD Symptoms and Coping in a Neighborhood-Matched Substance-Using Sample

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People with substance use problems living in neighborhoods with high levels of disorder are disproportionately likely to experience trauma and develop PTSD symptoms. We sought to evaluate the relationships between objective neighborhood disorder, perceptions of neighborhood, and the use of maladaptive coping behaviors among both non–substance-using and substance-using participants with and without PTSD symptoms.


Participants (255 non-drug users [NDUs], 168 marijuana and/or alcohol users [MAUs], and 273 opioid and/or stimulant users) completed the Addiction Severity Index, PTSD Checklist—Civilian Version, The COPE Inventory, and the Perceived Neighborhood Scale. The Neighborhood Inventory for Environmental Typology (NIfETy) was used to objectively assess neighborhood disorder at participants’ home addresses. Regression modeling was used to assess within-group predictors of PTSD and test for mediation in the relationships between PTSD, perceptions of neighborhood, and coping behaviors.


In NDUs, lower sense of community partially mediated the relationship between PTSD symptoms and using mental disengagement to cope. In MAUs, higher levels of perceived crime partially mediated the individual relationships between PTSD symptoms and using mental disengagement, focusing on and venting emotions, and using substances to cope. Opioid and/or stimulant users with PTSD symptoms reported using higher levels of mental disengagement, focusing on and venting emotions, and substances to cope and perceived a higher degree of crime; no mediation was inferred.


Perceptions of community and crime may be more predictive of PTSD symptoms than objectively measured neighborhood disorder. These perceptions partially mediate the relationship between maladaptive coping behaviors and PTSD symptoms.

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