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Examination of treatment effects on hazardous drinking among service members with posttraumatic stress disorder.

Authors: Dondanville, K. A., Wachen, J. S., Hale, W. J., Mintz, J., Roache, J. D., Carson, C., Litz, B. T., Yarvis, J. S., Young-McCaughan, S., Peterson, A. L., Resick, P. A.; for the STRONG STAR Consortium.

Publication: Journal of Traumatic Stress 32(2), 310-316. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22393


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder are frequently comorbid and present significant treatment challenges. Unfortunately, since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, the rates of PTSD and hazardous drinking among active duty service members have increased significantly. Previous research on PTSD has typically excluded participants with current substance abuse. However, there is some research examining independent treatments for PTSD and substance abuse provided consecutively, concurrently, or as enhancements to other treatment. The current study examined the association between current hazardous drinking and PTSD treatment among 108 active duty service members with PTSD in a randomized controlled trial of group cognitive processing therapy and group present-centered therapy. Total scores above 8 on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test defined hazardous alcohol use. At baseline, 25.0% of the sample was categorized as hazardous drinkers, and the hazardous and nonhazardous drinking groups did not differ in PTSD symptom severity, F(1, 106) = 0.08, p = .777, d = 0.06. Over the course of treatment, the two groups also did not differ significantly in PTSD symptom severity change on the PTSD Checklist, F(1, 106) = 1.20, p = .280, d = 0.33. Treatment for PTSD did not exacerbate hazardous drinking, and the hazardous drinking group showed significant reductions in drinking following PTSD treatment. Limitations and implications for treatment considerations are discussed.

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