Substance Abuse and Its Relation to Traumatic Brain Injuries

Doctors have consistently affirmed that substance abuse has a roll in many cases where patients are being treated from brain injuries. The injury may be a result of doing an activity while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or the patient may have already been treated for a brain injury and to combat the pain, get involved in substance abuse. Many questions can be asked in these cases such as: What can be done when someone who is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol is also suffering from a brain injury? What part can substance abuse play in a traumatic brain injury?

Who Is At Risk For Traumatic Brain Injury?

Alcohol abuse plays a major role in traumatic brain injury, with many incidents occurring in relation to automobile crashes or heavy equipment used while under the influence. The medical community recognizes that young males are the most likely to suffer from alcohol-related TBI. These incidents may be isolated, but many fall within a context of broader substance abuse: for example, a longitudinal study at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio has found that nearly 60 percent of their patient sample had prior histories of drug and alcohol abuse.

Someone with a previous record of substance abuse may have a more difficult time being hospitalized than those with no previous record or history. This is due to the fact that many patients are both recovering from their brain injuries and dealing with the frustrating physical and emotional effects of detoxification. The presence of drug or alcohol abuse can also complicate diagnoses, as many of the symptoms of overdose (respiratory depression, lethargy, confusion, apathy, and disorientation) are similar to those of traumatic brain injury. Thus, TBI is sometimes overlooked, leading to complications and ongoing symptoms related to insufficient care.

After Discharge: Substance Abuse A Risk For TBI Patients

The struggles with substance abuse do not necessarily end when a traumatic brain injury patient is released from the hospital and discharged to his or her home and community. In fact, they are sometimes just beginning: Victims of TBIs often turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the emotional disturbances or changes in personality that might be a result of a brain injury. The brain injury victim may be unable to report his or her own substance abuse problem due to memory problems or speech disorders related to his or her TBI; similarly, they may already exhibit external symptoms some would associate with intoxication and may feel that it doesn’t matter if they actually indulge in those substances since their physical symptoms already make them seem as if they do.

What Can Families Do About Substance Abuse and Traumatic Brain Injury?

Loved ones and families of the victim can be the biggest help in acquainting themselves and making interventions in the substance abuse after the brain injury. Since families usually take on a caretaker role after a brain injured victim is discharged from intensive medical care, they are often the first to recognize that their family member has a substance abuse problem. Families taking care of these patients do have ways to help the person with a substance abuse problem such as letting the health care providers know, or advise their loved one to find help. A drug-free surrounding that is supportive provided by the families can be another way to help the substance abuser and brain injury victim towards rehabilitation and regaining all functions. However, substance abuse can have an enormous negative impact on family members who suffer emotionally as their loved one slides into dangerous habits. It is essential that families of traumatic brain injury survivors with associated substance abuse issues seek out their own support, either through a professional counselor or a local Al-Anon group, in order to cope with the ravages of substance abuse.

Some families may wish to hire an experienced brain injury attorney to help them address not only medical care for substance abuse treatment, but the myriad of other issues related to traumatic brain injury. TBI is stressful on families and individuals; a clever lawyer who is an expert at brain injuries can maneuver the legal system and find essential services and help and possibly also help to find financial support or compensation for expenses that can come from being out of work or needing medication, as well as emotional turmoil.