An investigation of the effect of trauma script exposure on risk-taking among patients with substance use disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder

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Date of Original Version



Studies show that patients with substance use disorders (SUD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at high risk for engaging in risky behaviors. However, these studies do not speak to the context in which these behaviors are more likely to occur. This study examined whether SUD patients with current PTSD, compared to those without a history of PTSD, are more likely to exhibit risk-taking on a laboratory-based risk-taking task, the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), following exposure to a personalized trauma script versus a neutral script. The sample consisted of 122 trauma-exposed SUD patients with and without PTSD. Participants were administered a series of diagnostic interviews and personalized trauma scripts were created. On separate days, participants were exposed to a neutral or trauma script, followed by the IGT. Contrary to expectations, PTSD-SUD patients exhibited significantly greater risk-taking after the neutral (vs. trauma) script than those without PTSD. Moreover, whereas SUD patients without PTSD evidenced stability in IGT performance across scripts, those with PTSD exhibited significantly lower risk-taking on the IGT following the trauma (vs. neutral) script. Results provide support for the context dependent nature of risk-taking in PTSD-SUD patients and suggest they may become more risk averse in the context of trauma-related distress.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Anxiety Disorders