Drug, Alcohol Abuse Up Since Sept 11
By DEEPTI HAJELA
The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) - Drug and alcohol abuse appears to be up in many parts of the country since Sept. 11, especially in New York City and Washington, a survey suggests.
``These are people who are self-medicating because of the stress they feel,'' said Joseph Califano Jr., president of the Columbia University National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, which conducted the survey. ``I think we have the beginnings of a self-medicating epidemic.''
The conclusion that drug and alcohol abuse has increased was drawn indirectly, based on reports of people seeking substance-abuse treatment.
The Columbia center surveyed public agencies that monitor drug and alcohol abuse, and received responses from 41 states and eight of the nation's 10 largest cities.
Treatment for substance abuse was found to have increased substantially in the two big cities struck by the terrorist attacks, and in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York State.
Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Dakota and Tennessee reported increases, too, though smaller ones, as did Dallas and Los Angeles.
Columbia researchers relied on the public agencies to assess treatment rates. States typically drew on data such as admissions to treatment centers, emergency room visits, and counseling sessions. In New York City, for instance, the number of counseling sessions grew by more than 20 percent.
Nationwide, admissions to treatment facilities increased 10 percent to 12 percent since Sept. 11, the Columbia center reported. The center collected national data separately with the help of the University of Pennsylvania Treatment Research Institute.
Researchers said the fear and anxiety over the terrorist attacks have been compounded by the anthrax scare, war in Afghanistan, warnings of more terrorist plots, and the extensive news coverage of the crisis.
The result: ``chronic, unremitting stress,'' said Barbara Woods, a Bethesda, Md., psychologist who has seen an increase in her practice. ``Our central nervous systems, they just need a break. Even the strongest system can only take so much,''
New York hospitals confirmed the trend.
``Those who were vulnerable prior to Sept. 11 have become even more so, and we've had a number of relapses as a result of the attacks,'' said Robert T. Cahill, service director for alcoholism, substance abuse and compulsive gambling at South Oaks Hospital in Amityville.
The Columbia survey follows other reports about a rise in stress. New prescriptions for sleep aids, for example, rose more than 25 percent in New York City immediately after the attacks.
Califano predicted drug and alcohol abuse will grow as time passes. He pointed out that Oklahoma saw increases in treatment rates two years after the 1995 bombing of the federal building.