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Correlates of Comorbid PTSD and Polysubstance Use in Sexual Assault Victims

NCJ Number
Violence and Victims Volume: 21 Issue: 6 Dated: December 2006 Pages: 725-743
Sarah E. Ullman Ph.D.; Stephanie M. Townsend Ph.D.; Laura L. Starzynski M.A.; LaDonna M. Long M.A.
Date Published
December 2006
19 pages
This study examined factors associated with drinking and/or substance use in female sexual assault victims with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Findings show that the sexual assault victims with PTSD only--compared with those with PTSD and illicit drug use, those with PTSD and drinking problems, and those with PTSD and polysubstance use--had the most favorable scores on social support, social reactions to assault disclosure, avoidance coping strategies, PTSD symptoms, and depressive symptoms. The PTSD/polysubstance use group had the poorest outcomes on these measures; and women with PTSD and either drinking problems or past-year illicit drug use had outcomes in between the latter two groups. The PTSD/drug-use group, however, had more lifetime suicide attempts and more formal support-seeking, suggesting that this group may be an especially high-risk group in need of intervention. Revictimization risk was greater for both groups that used drugs in the past year. Having additional traumatic life events and more severe child sexual abuse were related to greater odds of having PTSD and polysubstance use problems than having PTSD only. Victims having drinking or drug-use problems prior to sexual assault were more likely to have PTSD combined with drinking/drug problems after the assault. Only female sexual assault victims with current PTSD (n=503) and who also provided complete information about past-year drinking and illicit drug use were included in this study. Data on these women were obtained from a mail survey in the first wave of a longitudinal study of sexual assault survivors' recovery. The initial cross-sectional survey was conducted over a 1-year period in the Chicago metropolitan area. 2 tables and 72 references