'Exposure Therapy' May Work Best for PTSD Plus Drinking Problems

For veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) combined with a drinking problem, the type of psychotherapy prescribed can make a difference in recovery rates, a new study finds.

So-called prolonged exposure therapy is more effective than coping skills therapy in helping these patients, according to researchers at the VA San Diego Healthcare System.

"The main takeaway of the study for me is that we may be doing a disservice to veterans if we don't offer them the best treatments we have available for PTSD, such as prolonged exposure," said study leader Sonya Norman.

The findings could help guide care for many veterans who have both PTSD and an alcohol use disorder, which often occur together, Norman and her colleagues said. Alcohol use disorder does not always rise to the level of alcoholism, which is a term used to describe someone with a severe form of alcohol dependence.

The study included 119 patients with PTSD and alcohol use disorder. Some received prolonged exposure therapy while others received a coping skills therapy called Seeking Safety.