• Trauma;
  • Alcohol;
  • Drinking Motives

Objective:  Drinking motives predict later levels of alcohol consumption and development of alcohol dependence, but their effects on stress-related drinking are less clear. Proximity to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center (WTC) on 9/11/01 was significantly associated with alcohol consumption 1 and 16 weeks after 9/11/01. We investigated the relationship between drinking motives measured a decade earlier, proximity to the WTC, and drinking after 9/11/01. This event constitutes a natural experiment for studying the effects of previously measured drinking motives on alcohol consumption after fateful trauma.

Methods:  Adult drinkers (= 644) residing in a New Jersey county were evaluated for four drinking motives: coping with negative affect, for enjoyment, for social facilitation and social pressure. After 9/11/01, their exposure to the WTC attack and subsequent drinking were assessed. Poisson regression was used to assess the relationships between proximity to the WTC, drinking motives and post-9/11/01 drinking; models were adjusted for alcohol dependence, age, gender and race.

Results:  Drinking to cope with negative affect predicted alcohol consumption 1 week after 9/11/01 (= 0.04) and drinking for enjoyment predicted drinking 1 and 16 weeks after 9/11/01 (= 0.001 and 0.01, respectively). The associations were independent of proximity to the WTC. No interactions were observed between drinking motives, proximity to the WTC or lifetime alcohol dependence.

Conclusion:  Drinking motives a decade earlier predicted higher alcohol consumption after fateful trauma independently from proximity to the WTC on 9/11/01. Results suggest that drinking motives constitute a robust, enduring influence on drinking behavior, including after traumatic experiences.