The influence of posttraumatic stress disorder and recurrent major depression on risk-taking propensity following trauma script exposure among patients with substance use disorders

Addict Behav. 2020 Mar;102:106181. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106181. Epub 2019 Oct 24.


Although evidence suggests that risk-taking among individuals with co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorder (SUD) may be precipitated by trauma-related emotional distress, studies have yet to examine moderators of this effect. One moderator worth investigating is recurrent major depressive disorder (MDD), given its influence on emotional responding and subsequent behavior. This study examined the moderating role of recurrent MDD in the relation of PTSD to risk-taking propensity following neutral and trauma scripts among SUD patients. Participants were 193 patients with and without current PTSD and/or recurrent MDD in residential SUD treatment. Risk-taking propensity, as assessed through the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART), was evaluated following a neutral script and a personalized trauma script. A significant script by PTSD by recurrent MDD interaction was found. Participants with PTSD and recurrent MDD exhibited significantly lower risk-taking following the trauma script relative to participants with PTSD but no recurrent MDD. Moreover, participants with PTSD and recurrent MDD exhibited a significantly smaller increase in risk-taking following the trauma script (relative to the neutral script) than participants with PTSD but no recurrent MDD. Participants with PTSD and recurrent MDD did not differ significantly from participants without PTSD. Results provide support for the context-dependent nature of risk-taking among PTSD-SUD patients without (vs. with) recurrent MDD. Results also highlight the importance of considering the presence of recurrent MDD in research and/or clinical work with SUD patients with PTSD.

Keywords: Depressive disorders; Impulsivity; PTSD; Substance abuse; Trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychological Trauma / psychology*
  • Recurrence
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Young Adult