Treating substance use and traumatic stress among adolescents

December 2017

Associate Professor Katherine Mills
Professor Maree Teesson
Dr Emma Barrett
Dr Joanne Ross
Miss Ivana Kihas

Other Collaborators: 

Prof Sudie Back, Medical University of South Carolina
Dr Vanessa Cobham, University of Queensland
Dr Sarah Bendall, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, ORYGEN
A/Prof Sean Perrin, Lund University
Prof Kathleen Brady, Medical University of South Carolina

Project description: 

It is estimated that 80% of adolescents have experienced at least one traumatic event and one in seven suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For 50% of these adolescents, the course of their illness is further complicated by a co-occurring substance use disorder (SUD), which frequently develops as a consequence of repeated “self-medication” of PTSD symptoms. Once established, both disorders serve to maintain and exacerbate the other, leading to a chronic course of illness and significant treatment complications. There is a critical need to intervene early in the trajectory of these conditions in order to prevent the chronic psychological, psychosocial, and physical health problems associated with this comorbidity.


This project is a long overdue response to a significant public health concern. Despite the prevalence, disability and chronicity of comorbid PTSD+SUD, and the fact that these disorders typically have their onset in adolescence, there are currently no empirically validated treatment options for adolescents with this comorbidity.


The aim of this randomised controlled trial is to examine the efficacy of two integrated psychological therapies for adolescents aged 12-18 years who are experiencing traumatic stress and using alcohol or other drugs.

For full details please visit the NDARC website.