New Research: PTSD, Alcohol Use Disorder Common in Adolescents Exposed to Natural Disasters

New Research: PTSD, Alcohol Use Disorder Common in Adolescents Exposed to Natural Disasters

SAN DIEGO, May 20, 2017 – Adolescents who were highly exposed to natural and environmental disasters show higher levels of alcohol misuse and emotional trauma than their peers, according to new research presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Diego. The findings indicate the importance of mental health services for youth that have experienced emotional trauma.

Previous research has found long-term posttraumatic stress and depression symptoms in both adults and adolescents who experienced Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in 2010. Researchers led by Robert Fuchs, medical student at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, examined post-disaster alcohol use by adolescents.

More than 450 high school students (age 14–18) in St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana who had been exposed to both the hurricane and oil spill as children participated in a survey about socioeconomic status, emotional states, level of alcohol use and their degree of disaster exposure.

Adolescents who were highly exposed to Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill had higher levels of alcohol misuse and emotional trauma compared to their peers with lower exposure to these disasters.

The researchers conclude that social support to help adolescent disaster victims with feelings of depression, anger and loneliness may reduce alcohol use in these populations.

Robert Fuchs is a second year M.D.-Ph.D. student at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. His research interests concern the biological changes underlying neuropsychiatric dysfunction, such as in addiction and chronic anxiety. Howard J. Osofsky, M.D., Ph.D., is the Kathleen and John Bricker Chair, Department of Psychiatry at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. Joy D. Osofsky, Ph.D., is a clinical and developmental psychologist, Paul J. Ramsay Chair and Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association is the oldest medical association in the country founded in 1844. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,000 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment.

Media Contacts

Glenn O'Neal, 202-459-9732
press@psych.org

Erin Connors, 202-609-7113
econnors@psych.org