Integrated exposure-based therapy for co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder and substance dependence: A randomized controlled trial

Katherine L. Mills*, Maree Teesson, Sudie E. Back, Kathleen T. Brady, Amanda L. Baker, Sally Hopwood, Claudia Sannibale, Emma L. Barrett, Sabine Merz, Julia Rosenfeld, Philippa L. Ewer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

255 Citations (Scopus)


Context: There is concern that exposure therapy, an evidence-based cognitive-behavioral treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may be inappropriate because of risk of relapse for patients with co-occurring substance dependence. Objective: To determine whether an integrated treatment for PTSD and substance dependence, Concurrent Treatment of PTSD and Substance Use Disorders Using Prolonged Exposure (COPE), can achieve greater reductions in PTSD and substance dependence symptom severity compared with usual treatment for substance dependence. Design, Setting, and Participants: Randomized controlled trial enrolling 103 participants whomet DSM-IV-TR criteria for both PTSD and substance dependence. Participants were recruited from 2007-2009 in Sydney, Australia; outcomes were assessed at 9 months postbaseline, with interim measures collected at 6 weeks and 3 months postbaseline. Interventions: Participants were randomized to receive COPE plus usual treatment (n=55) or usual treatment alone (control) (n=48). COPE consists of 13 individual 90-minute sessions (ie, 19.5 hours) with a clinical psychologist. Main Outcome Measures: Change in PTSD symptom severity as measured by the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS; scale range, 0-240) and change in severity of substance dependence as measured by the number of dependence criteria met according to the Composite International Diagnostic Interview version 3.0 (CIDI; range, 0-7), from baseline to 9-month follow-up. A change of 15 points on the CAPS scale and 1 dependence criterion on the CIDI were considered clinically significant. Results: From baseline to 9-month follow-up, significant reductions in PTSD symptom severity were found for both the treatment group (mean difference, -38.24[95% CI, -47.93 to -28.54]) and the control group (mean difference, -22.14[95%CI, -30.33 to -13.95]); however, the treatment group demonstrated a significantly greater reductionin PTSD symptom severity (mean difference,-16.09[95%CI,-29.00to -3.19]). No significant between-group difference was found in relation to improvement in severity of substance dependence (0.43 vs 0.52; incidence rate ratio, 0.85 [95% CI, 0.60 to 1.21), nor were there any significant between-group differences in relation to changes in substance use, depression, or anxiety. Conclusion: Among patients with PTSD and substance dependence, the combined use of COPE plus usual treatment, compared with usual treatment alone, resulted in improvement in PTSD symptom severity without an increase in severity of substance dependence. Trial Registration: Identifier: ISRCTN12908171.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)690-699
Number of pages10
JournalJAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


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