Brain injury is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 2.5 million people in the sustain a brain injury each year. Living with a brain injury can require some changes and adjustments. You may require resources, strategies, and support after your injury. After a brain injury you may experience some confusion, difficulties with memory and concentration, changes in emotion, depression, anxiety, headache, and/or fatigue.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Why do so many individuals with TBI have problems with substance use?

Why do so many individuals with TBI have problems with substance use?

How does alcohol and other drug use affect a person who has had a TBI?

Persons with TBI who use alcohol or other drugs show greater problems with brain structure and function.
  1. Don't Recover As Well
    People who use alcohol or other drugs after they have a brain injury don’t recover as well.

  2. Problems in Balance, Walking and Talking
    Brain injuries cause problems in balance, walking or talking that get worse when a person uses alcohol or other drugs.

  3. Say or Do Things Without Thinking First
    People who have had a brain injury often say or do things without thinking first, a problem that is made worse by using alcohol and other drugs.

  4. Problems With Thinking, Concentration or Memory
    Brain injuries cause problems with thinking, concentration or memory, and using alcohol or other drugs makes these problems worse.

  5. More Powerful Effect of Substances After TBI
    After a brain injury, alcohol and other drugs have a more powerful effect.

  6. More Likely To Feel Low or Depressed
    People who have had a brain injury are more likely to have times that they feel low or depressed and drinking alcohol and getting high on other drugs makes this worse.

  7. Can Cause a Seizure
    After a brain injury, drinking alcohol or using other drugs can cause a seizure.

  8. More Likely To Have Another TBI
    People who drink alcohol or use other drugs after a brain injury are more likely to have another brain injury.

Other reasons to avoid alcohol and other drugs
In addition, persons with TBI who use substances are more likely to experience:
  • Unemployment
  • Living alone
  • Feeling isolated
  • Lower life satisfaction
  • Interactions with prescribed drugs or other medical conditions
  • Criminal activity and being arrested
  • Injury or being victimized
  • Additional brain damage


What is appropriate substance use treatment for a person with TBI?

What is appropriate substance use treatment for a person with TBI?

Impairments caused by brain injury may present unique obstacles to treatment success. There has not been very much research about which substance abuse treatment methods work best for people who have had brain injuries. Most clinicians feel that techniques found effective for people in general can also be effective for people who have had brain injuries. However, it is important to find a treatment provider who is willing to to take into consideration the special needs of the person with TBI.
Treatment Methods

Treatment Methods

Effective treatment is usually tailored to a person's readiness to address substance use problems. To be effective, the treatment method chosen must be acceptable to the person being treated.

Living in Recovery

Living in Recovery

Learning about the effects of alcohol and other drugs after TBI can help people to make choices that will help them to recover more fully. Family and friends can help support an alcohol and drug-free lifestyle. People can also obtain support through treatment. We believe that people can continue to show improvements for several years after a brain injury, as long as they are living a healthy lifestyle, which includes avoiding alcohol and other drugs.

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