Associations between alcohol use and PTSD symptoms among American Red Cross Disaster Relief Workers responding to the 9/11/2001 attacks

Jeffrey S. Simons, Raluca M. Gaher, Gerard A. Jacobs, David Meyer, Erika Johnson-Jimenez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Objective: This study examined associations between alcohol use and PTSD symptoms among Red Cross workers who responded to the 9/11/2001 attacks. Method: Participants were 779 Red Cross paid and volunteer staff that responded during the first three months to the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States. Women made up 64% of the sample. The American Red Cross provided a mailing list of all paid and volunteer staff (N=6055 with valid addresses) that participated in the disaster relief operations in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks. Participants were randomly assigned to receive one of four questionnaire packets. The present study is based on the fourth group, which received the alcohol questionnaires. Results: Overall, traumatic stress symptoms and alcohol use were low. Hyperarousal and intrusion symptoms on the Impact of Events Scale-Revised (IES-R) were associated with alcohol consumption, hazardous alcohol consumption, and change in alcohol consumption when controlling for age, gender, and worksite. Positive associations between Intrusion and Avoidance scores and hazardous consumption were stronger for younger participants. Individuals who reported increasing or decreasing alcohol use had higher IES-R scores than did those who maintained their normal rate of alcohol consumption, though effects were stronger for increasing alcohol use. Associations between alcohol variables and avoidance symptoms were minimal. Conclusions: The results suggest that there is a functional relation between posttratimatic stress symptoms and alcohol consumption. The study indicates that efforts to cope with traumatic stress symptoms may manifest in either increases or decreases in alcohol consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-304
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol use
  • Disaster relief operations
  • Posttraumatic stress syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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