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Population Psychiatric Medication Prescription Rates following a Terrorist Attack

  • Charles DiMaggio (a1), Sandro Galea (a2) and Paula A. Madrid (a3)



While several population-based studies have documented behavioral health disturbances following terrorist attacks, a number of mental health service utilization analyses present conflicting conclusions.


The purpose of this study was to determine if mental health service utilization increased following a terrorist attack by assessing changes in psychoactive drug prescription rates.


The rate of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) prescriptions was measured among New York State Medicaid enrollees before and after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The association between geographic proximity to the events and changes in the rate of SSRI prescriptions around 11 September 2001 was assessed.


From September to December 2001, among individuals residing within three miles of the World Trade Center site, there was an 18.2% increase in the SSRI prescription rate compared to the previous eight-month period (p = 0.0011). While there was a 9.3% increase for non-New York City residents, this change was not statistically significant (p = 0.74).


There was a quantifiable increase in the dispensing of psychoactive drugs following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, and this effect varied by geographic proximity to the events. These findings build on the growing body of knowledge on the pervasive effects of disasters and terrorist events for population health, and demonstrate the need to include mental and behavioral health as key components of surge capacity and public health response to mass traumas.


Corresponding author

Charles DiMaggio, PhD Department of Epidemiology Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health 722 West 168 Street, Rm 1117 New York, NY 10032 USA E-mail:


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Population Psychiatric Medication Prescription Rates following a Terrorist Attack

  • Charles DiMaggio (a1), Sandro Galea (a2) and Paula A. Madrid (a3)


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