Terrorist Attacks Lead to Increased Use of Alcohol

In the aftermath of terrorist attacks such as September 11, 2001, the Oklahoma City Bombings of 1995, and the Intifada uprisings in Israel, more people are turning to alcohol use and abuse. According to researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the University of Michigan, approximately one in 12 people exposed to terrorism report increased use and abuse of alcohol. This data was used to study the prevalence and likelihood of addictive behavior following terrorist acts.

The results indicated that almost ten percent of the general population surveyed in these settings reported increased or problematic alcohol consumption. The estimate dropped to seven percent after adjusting for the type of attack, the type of population surveyed (survivors, responders, or the general population), and the time following the incident when the survey was conducted. But investigators estimated a one in four chance that the rate could be doubled. The study found similar rates of increase of drug and cigarette use.

The authors of the study note that their results are consistent with research indicating that people who experience trauma may use substances to cope with stress and anxiety. While there was a great deal of variability in their findings, Charles DiMaggio, PhD, assistant clinical professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and lead author of the study, said, “These kinds of numbers indicate the potentially pervasive behavioral health effects of man-made disasters like terrorism. We hope our results can help direct interventions following terrorist incidents.”

Source: Science Daily, Terrorist Attacks Provoke Surge in Alcohol and Drug Use, May 8, 2009

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