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J Addict Dis. 2013;32(2):168-79. doi: 10.1080/10550887.2013.795467.

Comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder and opiate addiction: a literature review.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA.


Treatment of comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and opioid dependence has been a challenge for many clinicians. There are limited evidence-based guidelines for treatment of this comorbidity. Symptoms of PTSD and opiate dependence may converge, and it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between both conditions. For example, opioid withdrawal symptoms may mimic the hypervigilance and exacerbated startle response of patients with PTSD. A common neurobiologic circuit is suggested for the pathophysiologic mechanism of this comorbidity. There is evidence that opioid substitution therapy may improve treatment outcomes for opioid addiction in patients with comorbid PTSD and opioid dependence. Evidence-based psychotherapeutic intervention is recommended for this population to improve the psychological outcome as well. Combining opioid substitution therapy with evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy designed for individuals with comorbid PTSD and substance abuse (e.g., Seeking Safety) may improve treatment outcomes in this population. More research is needed to understand the underlying mechanisms for this comorbidity and to improve treatment response.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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