Drugs and Alcohol

Brain injury recovery

  • Recovery from brain injury continues for much longer than we used to think possible. Many people notice improvements for many years after injury.
  • Using Drugs and Alcohol can slow down or stop brain injury recovery.
  • After a brain injury, survivors are at higher risk (3 to 8 times higher) of having another brain injury.
  • Drinking alcohol and taking other drugs puts survivors at an even higher risk of having a second brain injury. This may be because both of these things can affect coordination, balance, and also lead to poor decision making.

Seizures

  • Traumatic brain injury puts survivors at risk for developing seizures (epilepsy).
  • Using Drugs and alcohol lowers the seizure threshold and may trigger seizures.

Cognition

  • Alcohol, other drugs and brain injury have similar negative effects on mental abilities like memory and thinking flexibility.
  • Alcohol and other drugs magnify some of the cognitive problems caused by brain injury.
  • Alcohol and other drugs may affect brain injury survivors more than they did before their injury.
  • Depression is about 8 times more common in the first year after TBI than in the general population.
  • Using Alcohol or other drugs can cause or worsen depression.
  • Alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of anti-depressant medications. People who are taking antidepressants should not drink alcohol.

What should you do?

The stakes are higher when people choose to use alcohol after having a TBI. Some people continue drinking after a TBI and don’t have any desire to change that behavior. Others know they probably should stop or reduce alcohol use, but don’t know how or have tried in the past and not been successful.

There are many ways to stop using alcohol or other drugs and many ways to reduce the potential for harm. The great majority of people who have stopped having alcohol problems did it on their own.

The key ingredients to changing your drinking are:

(1) find people who will support your efforts to change your drinking;

(2) set a specific goal;

(3) make clear how you will meet your goal;

(4) identify situations or emotions that can trigger drinking, and figure out ways to cope with those triggers ahead of time; and

(5) find ways to reward yourself for sticking to your plan and meeting your goals.

If you do not want to do it on your own Psychologists or other therapists in your brain injury rehabilitation team can help you come up with a plan. All you need to do is ask.