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Several hypotheses may explain the association between substance use, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. However, few studies have utilized a large multisite dataset to understand this complex relationship. Our study assessed the relationship between alcohol and cannabis use trajectories and PTSD and depression symptoms across 3 months in recently trauma-exposed civilians.
In total, 1618 (1037 female) participants provided self-report data on past 30-day alcohol and cannabis use and PTSD and depression symptoms during their emergency department (baseline) visit. We reassessed participant's substance use and clinical symptoms 2, 8, and 12 weeks posttrauma. Latent class mixture modeling determined alcohol and cannabis use trajectories in the sample. Changes in PTSD and depression symptoms were assessed across alcohol and cannabis use trajectories via a mixed-model repeated-measures analysis of variance.
Three trajectory classes (low, high, increasing use) provided the best model fit for alcohol and cannabis use. The low alcohol use class exhibited lower PTSD symptoms at baseline than the high use class; the low cannabis use class exhibited lower PTSD and depression symptoms at baseline than the high and increasing use classes; these symptoms greatly increased at week 8 and declined at week 12. Participants who already use alcohol and cannabis exhibited greater PTSD and depression symptoms at baseline that increased at week 8 with a decrease in symptoms at week 12.
Our findings suggest that alcohol and cannabis use trajectories are associated with the intensity of posttrauma psychopathology. These findings could potentially inform the timing of therapeutic strategies.
Posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) are common following traumatic stress exposure (TSE). Identification of individuals with PTSS risk in the early aftermath of TSE is important to enable targeted administration of preventive interventions. In this study, we used baseline survey data from two prospective cohort studies to identify the most influential predictors of substantial PTSS.
Self-identifying black and white American women and men (n = 1546) presenting to one of 16 emergency departments (EDs) within 24 h of motor vehicle collision (MVC) TSE were enrolled. Individuals with substantial PTSS (⩾33, Impact of Events Scale – Revised) 6 months after MVC were identified via follow-up questionnaire. Sociodemographic, pain, general health, event, and psychological/cognitive characteristics were collected in the ED and used in prediction modeling. Ensemble learning methods and Monte Carlo cross-validation were used for feature selection and to determine prediction accuracy. External validation was performed on a hold-out sample (30% of total sample).
Twenty-five percent (n = 394) of individuals reported PTSS 6 months following MVC. Regularized linear regression was the top performing learning method. The top 30 factors together showed good reliability in predicting PTSS in the external sample (Area under the curve = 0.79 ± 0.002). Top predictors included acute pain severity, recovery expectations, socioeconomic status, self-reported race, and psychological symptoms.
These analyses add to a growing literature indicating that influential predictors of PTSS can be identified and risk for future PTSS estimated from characteristics easily available/assessable at the time of ED presentation following TSE.
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