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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.
This is the first report on the association between trauma exposure and depression from the Advancing Understanding of RecOvery afteR traumA(AURORA) multisite longitudinal study of adverse post-traumatic neuropsychiatric sequelae (APNS) among participants seeking emergency department (ED) treatment in the aftermath of a traumatic life experience.
We focus on participants presenting at EDs after a motor vehicle collision (MVC), which characterizes most AURORA participants, and examine associations of participant socio-demographics and MVC characteristics with 8-week depression as mediated through peritraumatic symptoms and 2-week depression.
Eight-week depression prevalence was relatively high (27.8%) and associated with several MVC characteristics (being passenger v. driver; injuries to other people). Peritraumatic distress was associated with 2-week but not 8-week depression. Most of these associations held when controlling for peritraumatic symptoms and, to a lesser degree, depressive symptoms at 2-weeks post-trauma.
These observations, coupled with substantial variation in the relative strength of the mediating pathways across predictors, raises the possibility of diverse and potentially complex underlying biological and psychological processes that remain to be elucidated in more in-depth analyses of the rich and evolving AURORA database to find new targets for intervention and new tools for risk-based stratification following trauma exposure.