To reduce or abstain? Substance use goals in the treatment of veterans with substance use disorders and comorbid PTSD

Brian E. Lozano, Daniel F. Gros, Therese Killeen, Maryanne Jaconis, Francis M. Beylotte, Stephen Boyd, Sudie E. Back

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders (SUD) frequently co-occur. Previous research demonstrates the utility of goals in attaining improved SUD outcomes, however, no previous studies have examined goal choices in the context of integrated treatment for comorbid PTSD and SUD. Objectives The present study investigated correlates of treatment entry goals to either reduce or abstain from substance use. Methods Participants (N = 60) were treatment-seeking veterans with current PTSD and SUD. Participants completed self-report and clinician-rated measures of substance use, PTSD, and affective symptoms as part of a larger randomized controlled trial. Results Half (30/60) of participants endorsed a treatment entry goal to reduce substance use (reducers). Compared to participants who endorsed a treatment entry goal of abstinence (abstainers), reducers were significantly younger, more likely to be employed, more likely to have served in recent military conflicts (Operations Enduring/Iraqi Freedom), and endorsed significantly fewer symptoms of alcohol dependence. Conclusions and Scientific Significance The findings demonstrate clinically relevant differences based on treatment entry goals, suggesting that individuals are often able to choose conceivably appropriate treatment goals based, most notably, on the severity of their SUD. Collaboratively engaging patients in establishing treatment goals that are consistent with their beliefs and desires in conjunction with empirical findings is particularly relevant in the context of treatment for SUD and PTSD where many patients are ambivalent about treatment and attrition is common.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)578-581
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal on Addictions
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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