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Two-Year Mental Health Service Use and Course of Remission in Patients with Substance Use and Posttraumatic Stress Disorders

Paige Crosby Ouimette, Rudolf H. Moos, John W. Finney

Objective: Comorbid diagnoses of substance abuse/dependence and posttraumatic stress disorder (SUD-PTSD) adversely affect substance abuse patients' treatment outcomes. Recently, several practices have been recommended for the treatment of SUD-PTSD patients based on empirical findings, including providing PTSD-specific care. Accordingly, this study examines the association between outpatient PTSD treatment and the long-term course of SUD-PTSD patients. Method: Male substance abuse/dependence patients (N = 125) with a comorbid diagnosis of PTSD completed 1-and 2-year follow-ups. Based on these reports, 26 patients were stably remitted from substance abuse, 39 were partially remitted and 60 were not remitted at either follow-up. These three groups were compared on mental health service use indices gathered from patients' self-reports of inpatient treatment and nationwide Veterans Affairs (VA) databases abstracting outpatient visits. Results: SUD-PTSD patients who attended more outpatient substance abuse, psychiatric and PTSD services in the first year following treatment (and cumulatively over the 2-year follow-up) were more likely to maintain a stable course of remission from substance use in the 2 years following inpatient SUD treatment. When the three types of sessions were examined in regression analyses, PTSD sessions in the second year and the total number of PTSD sessions over the 2 years following the index treatment episode emerged as the most significant predictors of remission. Self-help group participation was also associated with a remitted course for SUD-PTSD patients. Conclusions: These data suggest that PTSD-focused treatment services are an essential treatment component for substance abuse/dependence patients with PTSD. (J. Stud. Alcohol 61: 247-253, 2000)