The tragic events of 9/11 left the world in shock, but researchers are still struggling to uncover the full extent of the trauma caused by the terrorist attacks. Drug and alcohol addiction rates can be used to assess the toll on those who were affected by the attacks in one way or another, and researchers continue to discover new ways in which these events have affected national rates of posttraumatic stress disorder. PTSD can lead to traumatic flashbacks, stress, long depressive episodes, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
One study of 988 individuals in Manhattan was conducted just weeks after the 2001 attacks. Among respondents, there was a 29-percent increase in the rate of substance abuse with approximately one-quarter of respondents admitting that their alcohol consumption had increased as a result of stress from the attacks. A study several years later in 2004 found that 18 percent of respondents surveyed six to nine months after the attack reported an increased use of alcohol. Researchers in this study also uncovered a link between the use of alcohol and drugs and symptoms of PTSD and depression.
Despite the connection suggested by these studies and their findings, it is still unclear whether there is a direct link between the events of 9/11 and increased rates of addiction. Researchers hope to discover whether people who used more drugs and alcohol after 9/11 went on to develop addictions over time. By understanding the link between traumatic events and substance abuse rates, researchers can offer better treatment options for individuals in the future.
Helaina Hovitz was a child when the World Trade Center Twin Towers fell in New York. She struggled to return home through the chaos with her neighbors and reports seeing adults and children screaming in attempts to escape. Hovitz went on to write a memoir, which chronicled her experience and her slide into addiction as a means to cope with the suicidal ideation, depression, and anxiety brought about by the attacks. While this survivor’s story is shocking, it is far from an isolated case. Many survivors of 9/11 went on to develop serious emotional health issues, including substance abuse.
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While research continues into the direct link between 9/11 and increased substance abuse rates, the link between substance abuse and stress is clear. Many physicians suggest that stress is the leading factor in drug abuse relapse. Many people smoke or seek the euphoric sensations many illicit drugs provide as a way to avoid dealing with the psychological symptoms they are facing at the moment. While this temporary escape provides relief, research shows that the same neurocircuits may respond to both stress and drug stimulation.
Fortunately for survivors of trauma who develop an addiction or experience a relapse as a result, there are a variety of drug and alcohol addiction treatments available. From inpatient treatment centers to outpatient drug rehab, these treatment options are highly effective in helping addicts recover in a safe and judgment-free environment. As research into the link between trauma and addiction improves, researchers and clinicians will be able to offer even more effective treatment options.