Frequent binge drinking five to six years after exposure to 9/11: Findings from the World Trade Center Health Registry

Welch, Alice E.; Caramanica, Kimberly; Maslow, Carey B.; Cone, James E.; Farfel, Mark R.; Keyes, Katherine M.; Stellman, Steven D.; Hasin, Deborah S.

Background: Exposure to 9/11 may have considerable long-term impact on health behaviors, including increased alcohol consumption. We examined the association between frequent binge drinking, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and number of 9/11-specific experiences among World Trade Center Health Registry (Registry) enrollees five-to-six years after 9/11. Methods: Participants included 41,284 lower Manhattan residents, workers, passers-by, and rescue/recovery workers aged 18 or older without a pre-9/11 PTSD diagnosis who completed Wave 1 (2003–2004) and Wave 2 (2006–2007) interviews. Frequent binge drinking was defined as consuming five or more drinks on five or more occasions in the prior 30 days at Wave 2. Probable PTSD was defined as scoring 44 or greater on the PTSD Checklist. 9/11 exposure was measured as the sum of 12 experiences and grouped as none/low (0–1), medium (2–3), high (4–5) and very high (6+).Results: Frequent binge drinking was significantly associated with increasing 9/11 exposure and PTSD. Those with very high and high exposures had a higher prevalence of frequent binge drinking (13.7% and 9.8%, respectively) than those with medium and low exposures (7.5% and 4.4%, respectively). Upon stratification, very high and high exposures were associated with frequent binge drinking in both the PTSD and no PTSD subgroups. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that 9/11 exposure had an impact on frequent binge drinking five-to-six years later among Registry enrollees. Understanding the effects of traumatic exposure on alcohol use is important to identify risk factors for post-disaster alcohol misuse, inform policy, and improve post-disaster psychological and alcohol screening and counseling.

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Drug and Alcohol Dependence

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June 13, 2015