Randomised controlled trial of an integrated cognitive-behavioural therapy for the treatment of co-occurring post traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorder in adolescents

March 2017

Associate Professor Katherine Mills University of New South Wales

Professor Maree Teesson University of New South Wales

Doctor Emma Barrett University of New South Wales

Other Collaborators: 

Professor Sudie Back Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)

Dr Vanessa Cobham The University of Queensland

CIF Dr Sarah Bendall Orygen

CIG Associate Professor Sean Perrin Lund University, Sweden

Project description: 

There are currently no empirically validated treatment options for adolescents with PTSD and SUD. Building on NDARC’s unique collaborative success with the Medical University of , South Carolina the investigators conduct a world-first randomised controlled trial (RCT) examining the efficacy of an integrated 16-session cognitive-behavioural therapy for co-occurring PTSD and SUD (COPE-A) relative to a supportive counselling control condition, among approximately 100 adolescents aged 12-17 years. By intervening earlier when these disorders have their onset, the enduring disability and costs associated with this comorbidity may be reduced

The hidden epidemic of child and adolescent trauma is an issue of significant public health concern in Australia and internationally. The prevalence of trauma exposure peaks in adolescence (80%) and one in seven suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a chronic, debilitating psychiatric disorder. For 50% of adolescents suffering from PTSD, the course of their illness is further complicated by the development of a co-occurring substance use disorder (SUD), which typically develops as a consequence of repeated self-medication of PTSD symptoms. Adolescence marks a critical developmental period of significant social, biological, and neurological changes, and there is growing evidence of associations between PTSD, SUD and significant structural brain abnormalities. These abnormalities have been linked to considerable impairments in learning, memory, planning, impulse control and emotional regulation. There is an urgent need to intervene early in the trajectory in order to prevent the chronic psychological and physical health problems associated with this comorbidity in adulthood.

Start date: July 2017

Ed date: Jul 2020