People who suffer from PTSD often choose a strategy of avoidance coping (AVC) in order to manage their symptoms. This technique is also found in people who struggle with alcohol use disorders (AUD). “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use (SUDs) commonly co-occur, with rates of PTSD ranging from 28% to 55% in individuals seeking treatment for alcohol or drug use,” said a team of researchers who collaborated on a study to determine if AVC presents a risk factor for both of these issues. Bryce Hruska from Kent State University, William Fallon and Eileen Spoonster from Summa Health System, Eve M. Sledjeski from Rowan University and Douglas L. Delahanty from Kent State University and Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine believe that psychological distress plays a major role in the comorbidity of the two problems and people use AVC to address that stress. They said, “Researchers have hypothesized that individuals with PTSD use substances such as alcohol to self-medicate or relieve psychological distress resulting from their trauma symptoms.”
The team recruited 356 individuals who had been involved in a motor vehicle accident (MVA). Each person was assessed during their initial hospital stay, and again six weeks and six months after the accident. The research revealed consistent findings at each assessment. “Specifically, the relationship between AVC and PTSS was found to be greater for those with a history of alcohol abuse or dependence – relative to those without the history – in a sample of recent MVA victims,” said the researchers. The team pointed out the significance of their findings and how this study may help people who already have AUD. “Early assessment of AUD history and avoidance coping may aid in detecting those at elevated risk for PTSD, and intervening to reduce AVC soon after trauma may help buffer the development of PTSD and AUD comorbidity.”
Hruska, B., Fallon, W., Spoonster, E., Sledjeski, E. M., & Delahanty, D. L. (2011, March 28). Alcohol Use Disorder History Moderates the Relationship Between Avoidance Coping and Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0022439
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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