Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Alcohol Tied to Worse PTSD in Assault Victims

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Alcohol Tied to Worse PTSD in Assault Victims

Article excerpt

NEW ORLEANS -- Female victims of sexual and physical assault show a high rate of postassault alcohol abuse, which is associated with a more severe course of posttraumatic stress disorder.

Compared with nondrinking women, those with alcohol use disorders (AUD) were significantly more likely to have severe PTSD symptoms, especially intrusion symptoms. Even past alcohol users showed more severe symptoms than did nonusers, Debra Kaysen, Ph.D., said at the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Behavioral Therapy.

Her findings suggest that all assault victims should be carefully screened for both past and present AUD.

"My experience is that this is not necessarily done in all cases," said Dr. Kaysen, of the University of Washington, Seattle. "It's not enough just to ask about current use, because past use is apparently also a risk factor."

Dr. Kaysen saw 189 women within 2 weeks of either a sexual or physical assault, and 66% (124) of them returned for a 3-month follow-up. The women were young (mean 31 years), and most were black, single, and poor, with 50% making less than $5,000 a year. The women were recruited through local emergency departments, police departments, and community victim services agencies.

Alcohol use and abuse were assessed with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R, and PTSD was assessed with the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS)

No symptoms of PTSD were present in 22% of the group. Thirty-five percent of the group showed acute PTSD symptoms 2 weeks after the assault but not at follow-up. Thirty-eight percent showed a chronic course; they were symptomatic at both 2 weeks and 3 months. Delayed onset occurred in 5% of the women; they showed no symptoms at 2 weeks but were symptomatic by the 3-month follow-up.

Most of the women (71%) had no AUD, either current or past. A past history but no acute drinking was found in 17%. …

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