Re-traumatization Cycle: Sexual Abuse, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Sexual Risk Behaviors among Club Drug Users

Joana Corrêa de Magalhães Narvaez, Lysa Remy, Mariane Bagatin Bermudez, Juliana Nichterwitz Scherer, Felipe Ornell, Hilary Surratt, Steven P. Kurtz, Flavio Pechansky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Club drug users are high risk and vulnerable population for adverse drug-related consequences and sexual risk behaviors. Few investigations have addressed the possible interrelationship between early trauma and PTSD among young club drug using populations. Objective: Exposure to traumatic experiences–especially in childhood, has been linked to risk behaviors exposure and substance use disorder. This study aimed to assess and compare drug use patterns and the presence of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) experiences among ecstasy and LSD users with and without Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Method: This cross-sectional study employed targeted sampling and ethnographic mapping approaches via face-to-face interviews conducted at bars and electronic music festivals. The Global Appraisal of Individual Needs questionnaire was used as the primary assessment instrument. Participants were from 18 to 39 years of age, had used ecstasy and/or LSD in the 90 days prior to the interview, and were not in treatment for alcohol and other drug problems. Results: Out of the 240 participants, 123 (51.2%) presented PTSD symptoms. Those presenting PTSD were younger, less educated, with lower income, and presented higher drug use severity than those without PTSD symptoms. Moreover, a higher prevalence of sexual risk behavior was verified among those with PTSD. There was an association between PTSD symptoms and CSA history, where 64.2% of individuals with PTSD also presented CSA, compared to 47% among those without PTSD (p =.028). Individuals with co-occurring history of CSA and PTSD symptoms reported earlier use of ecstasy, LSD, and cocaine compared to individuals with a history of CSA but without PTSD. Conclusions: In the present study, participants with a history of PTSD demonstrate a history of CSA, as well as pronounced severity in several areas–precocity of use, severity of addiction, and greater exposure to situations of sexual risk. Thus, a cycle of traumatization may be established through early potential trauma, which can remain unprocessed and contribute to earlier and more severe substance use and sexual risk behaviors. Identification of PTSD symptoms and risk for HIV and other STIs among young club drug users is critical to address focused treatment approaches for this vulnerable population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1499-1508
Number of pages10
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jul 29 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Trauma
  • club drug users
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • sexual abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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