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Drug Use after Brain Injury

Drug and Alcohol Use after TBI

By Flora Hammond, MD

Alcohol and drug use among persons with brain injury is a major problem. To give a simple example, persons with brain injury who drink alcohol or take drugs are at much greater risk of having another brain injury. Additionally, the use of drugs and alcohol following a brain injury can worsen recovery.

The body’s tolerance level can change after brain injury. For example, drinking one alcoholic beverage may be equivalent to six drinks. Impaired tolerance levels affect coordination and balance increasing the risk of accidental falls and injuries to the brain.

Alcohol or drug use after a person has a brain injury may:

· Destroy brain cells over time

· Trigger seizures

· Impair thinking, judgment, and memory

· Create family problems

· Exaggerate the effects of a brain injury

· Worsen depression

· Change behavior

· Interact negatively with prescription medications

Alcohol, which is a legal drug, includes beer, wine, champagne, or hard liquors (such as vodka, whiskey, etc.) Illegal drugs include substances like marijuana, speed, crack, cocaine, LSD, heroin, and ecstasy, etc.

Be aware that prescription drugs are safe only if taken as prescribed. Never take any medication prescribed to someone else.

Flora Hammond, MD is the Project Director and Principal Investigator for the TBI Model System at the Carolinas Health Care in Charlotte, NC. She is also the Director of Research the Brain Injury Program.