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Prescriptions for anti-anxiety, sleep aids, anti-depressants soar in New York
by THERESA AGOVINO, AP Business Writer
(from SF Gate.com)
(10-11) 21:05 PDT NEW YORK (AP) -- Sales of anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants and sleep aids have surged since last month's terrorist attacks, particularly in New York, as the nation struggled with everything from survivor guilt to depression.

In the weeks after terrorists turned airplanes into missiles that destroyed the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon, new prescriptions for sleep aids rose 27.5 percent in New York City, where 4,776 remain missing and 384 are confirmed dead. New prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs rose 25 percent, and new prescriptions for anti-depressants jumped 17 percent from the week before the attack to the week ended Sep. 28, according to NDCHealth, which gleaned the figures from retail sales.

Psychiatrist Richard Pearlman has found himself prescribing more medication than he usually would, but said "this situation is far from usual. " "Patients think if they use medication they can come to grips with what happened," he said. "But people shouldn't try to sweep emotions under the rug. We need to all work through what happened."

In Washington, D.C., new prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs and anti-depressants each jumped about 13 percent, while prescriptions for sleep aids increased 8.8 percent, Atlanta-based NDCHealth said. Nationally, new prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications jumped 8.6 percent, prescriptions for sleep aids rose 7.5 percent and anti-depressants only grew 2.6 percent.

Experts say it is too soon to say whether the trend will continue, but no one is expecting an immediate decline.

"I think we are going to stay high but it won't go through the roof," said Dr. Craig Katz, the director of Psychiatric Emergency Services at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. "Some people will improve and not need medication, but if we are doing our outreach correctly there will be more people taking their place." Katz and a team of psychiatrists has been doing outreach at the center where families of victims of the Trade Center collapse receive social services. He has recommended further therapy to between one-third to one half of patients he has seen.

Dr. Gail Saltz, who has a private practice in Manhattan, said she has seen a pronounced increase in her business -- and not just from those directly effected from the crisis. Saltz says her practice has increased by 25 percent and about half her new patients don't have any direct connection to the tragedy.

"These people just feel they have no control over their lives," said Saltz. She has prescribed sleeping medication for three of her new patients because she felt the added rest would makes them less agitated and depressed. Pearlman, who is acting chair of the behavioral health Service division of the Staten Island region of St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers of New York, said both his private practice and visits to the hospital's mental health clinics are up 50 percent, and he doesn't expect a downshift soon.

"This is not a problem that is going away. It is not like we had a tornado and it's over and we can rebuild," said Pearlman. "People are worried about more attacks."