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Drinking Up, Lighting Up

It's an understatement to say that stress was in the air last fall in New York.

The twin towers collapsed into dust and rubble when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, killing 2,823 people in a disaster so terrible many bodies would never be found.

Anthrax turned up at NBC, CBS, the New York Post, and a main postal processing facility in Manhattan.

City firefighters fought with the city over how long they would be allowed to stay at Ground Zero searching for their fallen colleagues.

People told it was safe to return to their homes and businesses in lower Manhattan worried about how they would ever clean up the dust from the disaster - and whether the air down there was really safe to breathe.

So it might come as no surprise to some to hear of the results of a new study, which says residents of Manhattan drank more alcohol and smoked more cigarettes and marijuana after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Researchers at the New York Academy of Medicine surveyed nearly 1,000 Manhattan residents in the two months after the World Trade Center disaster. A quarter of respondents said they drank more than usual in the five to eight weeks after the attack.

Nearly 10 percent said they had been smoking more cigarettes and more than 3 percent said they had been smoking more marijuana, according to a report to appear in the June edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and depression were more common among those who said their smoking and drinking increased after the attack. Thirty-six percent of those who smoked more marijuana also reported stress disorder symptoms such as sleeplessness and nightmares.

More than one-fifth of those smoking more tobacco reported symptoms of depression.

A four-month follow-up survey found that New Yorkers in all five boroughs continue to smoke more tobacco, said David Vlahov, director of the academy's Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies.

"There's a fair proportion of people that increased at least a pack a day," Vlahov said.

A study released on May 18, found as many as 400,000 New Yorkers suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression after Sept. 11. It was done by the New York research firm Schulman, Ronca and Bucuvalas Inc. in conjunction with the New York Academy of Medicine.

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