The Use of Exposure-Based Treatment Among Individuals With PTSD and Co-occurring Substance Use Disorders: Clinical Considerations

J Dual Diagn. 2011 Oct 1;7(4):194-206. doi: 10.1080/15504263.2011.620421.


Integrative treatments for co-occurring posttraumatic stress (PTSD) and substance use disorders have been shown to be safe and effective. Improvement in PTSD symptoms can positively impact substance use outcomes. Interventions that include exposure-based techniques, which are considered the treatment of choice for PTSD, have not been well studied in substance abusing populations. Concurrent Treatment of PTSD and Substance Use Disorders with Prolonged Exposure (COPE) is a manualized psychotherapy that combines both imaginal and in vivo exposure techniques for PTSD with cognitive behavioral techniques for substance use disorders. Preliminary studies using COPE demonstrate promise and feasibility. This article explores the clinical considerations when implementing exposure-based therapy for PTSD in substance abusing individuals.

Keywords: posttraumatic stress disorder; prolonged exposure; substance use disorder.