Post-traumatic Stress Disorder as a Moderator of the Relationship Between Anxiety Sensitivity and Substance Use Disorders

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Epidemiological studies have shown that there is a high incidence of co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorders (SUDs). Given the numerous legal, social, psychological, and medical consequences associated with these two illnesses, it is important to determine clinical targets for them. Anxiety sensitivity (AS) may serve as such a target, as it is associated with both PTSD and SUDs. Furthermore, little is currently known about how AS and PTSD are associated with polysubstance use, and most of the existing literature focuses on nonclinical samples. The following study aims to address these gaps by examining whether PTSD moderates the relationship between AS and SUDs. 2,617 clients at a residential treatment center completed a clinical intake interview. AS was assessed using the ASI, and current and lifetime SUDs and lifetime PTSD were assessed using the SCID-IV. Two-way ANCOVAs were used to investigate the relationship between SUDs, lifetime PTSD, and AS, after controlling for age, income, and gender. AS was positively associated with both PTSD and SUDs. PTSD strengthened the positive association between AS and SUDs. Participants who met criteria for a greater number of SUDs reported greater AS. These results support the use of anxiety-sensitivity based interventions in treating PTSD and SUDs.