Terrorist attacks provoke surge in alcohol and drug use

May 11, 2009

Nearly one in 12 people exposed to terrorism report increased use and misuse of alcohol, according to researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the University of Michigan. In a study published in the June issue of the journal Addiction, investigators combined data from 31 studies conducted in the aftermath of such incidents as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Oklahoma City Bombings of 1995, and the Intifada uprisings in Israel.

The researchers used this data to look at the prevalence of addictive behavior after terrorist incidents and to assess the likelihood of an increase of in the general population following a terrorist attack.

Initial results indicated that nearly 10% of the general population surveyed in those settings reported more or problematic . After adjusting for the type of terrorist attack, the type of population surveyed (survivors, responders, or the general population), and the time following the incident when the survey was conducted, the estimate of the isolated effect of terrorism dropped to 7.3%. However, by using certain research methodologies, investigators were able to estimate that there was a one-in-four chance that the rate could be double that figure. The study found similar reported rates of increased drug and cigarette use.

Most of the studies the authors analyzed were conducted in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 (77%), looked at alcohol use and misuse as an endpoint (68%), and were based on general population estimates (55%). Although not statistically significant, reports of increased substance use and misuse declined over time and the effects were stronger for studies that looked at survivors and first responders than they were for general population samples. The authors note their results are consistent with research that indicates persons who experience trauma may use substances to cope with stress and self-medicate for anxiety-related symptoms.

Investigators caution that there was much variability in their findings, but according to
Charles DiMaggio, PhD, assistant clinical professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and lead author, "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: Wiley (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Women's sexual orientation linked to (un)happiness about birth

December 11, 2017
Unhappiness about a pregnancy or birth has been associated with negative health outcomes for mothers and babies. Yet, unhappiness about a pregnancy or birth has been understudied, particularly among sexual minority (non-heterosexual) ...

Social media trends can predict tipping points in vaccine scares

December 11, 2017
Analyzing trends on Twitter and Google can help predict vaccine scares that can lead to disease outbreaks, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.

Health warnings on cigarettes could deter young people

December 11, 2017
Young people are less likely to try cigarettes with the printed health warning 'Smoking kills' on each stick than standard cigarettes, according to a new study by Cancer Research UK published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Multiple health implications of women's early marriage go beyond early childbearing

December 11, 2017
A new study of four South Asian countries reveals complex associations between early marriage and women's education, health and nutrition that go beyond the impacts of early childbearing. These health implications—which ...

Over 50s with fewer than 20 teeth at higher risk of musculoskeletal frailty

December 11, 2017
New research by scientists at King's College London has found that tooth loss may contribute to musculoskeletal frailty in the over 50s, with those with fewer than 20 teeth being at greatest risk.

Poor sleep could lead to heavier drinking in young adults, study finds

December 8, 2017
A shortened night of sleep may increase young adults' risk of heavier drinking, according to a new Yale study that assessed reciprocal variations in sleep and drinking over time in young adults.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.