Treating substance use and traumatic stress among adolescents

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Date Commenced:
Expected Date of Completion:
Project Supporters:

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)

Project Members: 
image - Kath Mills Sq
Senior Res Fellow (NH&MRC)
Ph +612 9385 0253
image - Maree Teesson 0
Ph EA Jasmin Bartlett: 02 9385 0167 /
image - 1314149452 Emma Barrett 010
Senior Research Fellow
Ph 02 9385 0164
image - 1314150220 Joanne Ross 06
Senior Lecturer
Ph 9385 0333
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Research Officer
Ph 02 8936 1243
Project Main Description: 

It is estimated that 80% of adolescents have experienced at least one traumatic event and one in seven suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For 50% of these adolescents, the course of their illness is further complicated by a co-occurring substance use disorder (SUD), which frequently develops as a consequence of repeated “self-medication” of PTSD symptoms. Once established, both disorders serve to maintain and exacerbate the other, leading to a chronic course of illness and significant treatment complications. There is a critical need to intervene early in the trajectory of these conditions in order to prevent the chronic psychological, psychosocial, and physical health problems associated with this comorbidity.

Project Collaborators: External: 

Prof Sudie Back
Medical University of South Carolina

Dr Vanessa Cobham
University of Queensland

Dr Sarah Bendall
The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, ORYGEN

A/Prof Sean Perrin
Lund University

Prof Kathleen Brady
Medical University of South Carolina


This project is a long overdue response to a significant public health concern. Despite the prevalence, disability and chronicity of comorbid PTSD+SUD, and the fact that these disorders typically have their onset in adolescence, there are currently no empirically validated treatment options for adolescents with this comorbidity.


The aim of this randomised controlled trial is to examine the efficacy of two integrated psychological therapies for adolescents aged 12-18 years who are experiencing traumatic stress and using alcohol or other drugs.

Design and Method: 

Two-armed, parallel, RCT utilising patient level randomisation. 100 adolescents (and their caregivers) will be recruited and randomised (1:1) to one of two treatment conditions. Structured interviews will be undertaken at baseline (pre-treatment) and 4- and 12-mths post-baseline.


Recruitment will commence in early 2018. To be notified when recruitment starts please subscribe here.


The findings from this trial will provide much needed empirical evidence to help guide treatment of traumatic stress and substance use among adolescents in Australia and internationally.

Project Status: