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Alcohol and Other Drug Use Spikes After Terror Attacks

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People subjected to the trauma of a terrorist attack are likely to drink, smoke or take illicit drugs in the aftermath, though perhaps not in the large numbers observers might expect, a study finds.

For example, research shows that roughly 7 percent of people exposed to terrorist attacks reported an increase in alcohol consumption, Science Daily reported May 13.

Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health reviewed previously published studies conducted after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Oklahoma City Bombings (1995), and the Intifada uprisings in Israel and Palestine (though most of the data was based on the 9-11 attacks). Lead author Charles DiMaggio and colleagues looked for changes in addictive behavior and found that 7.3 percent of respondents reported more or problematic alcohol consumption.

Though the researchers cautioned that their findings are fraught with variability, DiMaggio 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.”

The findings were published online April 9, 2009 in the journal Addiction.

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