The Role of Impulsivity Dimensions in the Relation Between Probable Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Aggressive Behavior Among Substance Users [2017]

Objective: Individuals with co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorder report heightened levels of numerous risky and health-compromising behaviors, including aggressive behaviors. Given evidence that aggressive behavior is associated with negative substance use disorder treatment outcomes, research is needed to identify the factors that may account for the association between PTSD and aggressive behavior among patients with substance use disorder. Thus, the goal of this study was to examine the role of impulsivity dimensions (i.e., negative urgency, lack of premeditation, lack of perseverance, and sensation seeking) in the relations between probable PTSD status and both verbal and physical aggression.

Methods: Participants were 92 patients in residential substance use disorder treatment (75% male; 59% African American; M age = 40.25) who completed self-report questionnaires.

Results: Patients with co-occurring PTSD–substance use disorder (vs. substance use disorder alone) reported significantly greater verbal and physical aggression as well as higher levels of negative urgency and lack of premeditation. Lack of premeditation and lack of perseverance were significantly positively associated with verbal aggression, whereas negative urgency, lack of premeditation, and lack of perseverance were significantly positively associated with physical aggression. The indirect relation of probable PTSD status to physical aggression through negative urgency was significant.

Conclusions: Results highlight the potential utility of incorporating skills focused on controlling impulsive behaviors in the context of negative emotional arousal in interventions for physical aggression among patients with co-occurring PTSD–substance use disorder.

Nicole H. Weiss, PhD, Kevin M. Connolly, PhD, Kim L. Gratz, PhD & Matthew T. Tull, PhD

Journal of Dual Diagnosis: research and practice in substance abuse comorbidity, Volume 13, 2017 – Issue 2