Exposure therapy in the treatment of PTSD among cocaine-dependent individuals: preliminary findings

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2001 Jul;21(1):47-54. doi: 10.1016/s0740-5472(01)00182-9.


Individuals (n = 39) participated in an outpatient, 16-session individual, manual-guided psychotherapy designed to treat concurrent PTSD and cocaine dependence. Therapy consisted of a combination of imaginal and in-vivo exposure therapy techniques to treat PTSD symptoms and cognitive-behavioral techniques to treat cocaine dependence. Although the dropout rate was high, treatment completers (i.e., patients who attended at least 10 sessions; n = 15) demonstrated significant reductions in all PTSD symptom clusters and cocaine use from baseline to end of treatment. Significant reductions in depressive symptomatology, as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory, and psychiatric and cocaine use severity, as measured by the Addiction Severity Index, were also observed. These improvements in PTSD symptoms and cocaine use were maintained over a 6-month follow-up period among completers. The average pre- to posttreatment effect size was 1.80 for PTSD symptoms and 1.26 for drug and alcohol use severity. Baseline comparisons between treatment completers and noncompleters revealed significantly higher avoidance symptoms, as measured by the Impact of Events Scale, and fewer years of education among treatment noncompleters as compared to completers. This study provides preliminary evidence to suggest that exposure therapy can be used safely and may be effective in the treatment of PTSD in some individuals with cocaine dependence. However, the study is limited by the uncontrolled nature of the study design, small number of subjects, and high dropout rate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / therapy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / methods
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome