Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment after Brain Injury

Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment after Brain Injury

John Corrigan, Ph.D. and Roberta DePompei, Ph.D.
Substance abuse by a person with a brain injury has consequences. This tip card helps families, counselors and clinicians recognize signs of substance abuse and identify reasons for substance abuse among adolescents and adults with brain injury. It gives information and tips on how to respond to suspected or identified substance abuse by survivors. Guidelines for prevention, education and intervention are provided.
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Full Description

Substance abuse has special risks for persons with traumatic brain injury. The dangers of alcohol and drug use for adolescents and adults after brain injury are explained. This tip card summarizes common signs of substance abuse, identifies the reasons for misuse, and gives methods for families and parents to respond and reduce risks.

It includes guidelines for families and caregivers on how to initiate conversations about drug and alcohol use and how to identify a problem. Strategies for families are listed describing what to do if substance abuse is suspected. A true/false quiz illustrates common myths about alcohol and drug use.

Pages 8
Year Third edition, 2011


John Corrigan, Ph.D.

Dr. Corrigan is Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Psychology at Ohio State University. He is nationally recognized for his leading research and contributions to the field of rehabilitation psychology and the study of traumatic brain injury. He is founder and director of the Ohio Valley Center for Brain Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation which conducts research on rehabilitation and long-term outcomes of people with traumatic brain injury.

Roberta DePompei, Ph.D.

Dr. DePompei is a Professor and Clinical Supervisor at the Audiology and Speech Center at the University of Akron in Ohio. An advocate of the needs of youths with brain injuries and their families, she is on numerous national task forces and committees, as well as former co-chair of the Special Interest Group on Children and Adolescents with Brain Injuries for the Brain Injury Association of America. Widely published and a national and international presenter, Dr. DePompei specializes in the impact of brain injury upon speech, language and communication. She is especially interested in developing transitional opportunities for students as they progress through school and prepare for adulthood.


This tip card helps families, counselors and clinicians...

  • recognize signs of substance abuse
  • identify reasons for substance abuse
  • respond to suspected or identified substance abuse
  • prevent, educate and intervene

What is Substance Abuse?

Relationship of Substance use to Brain Injury

How Do You Know There’s a Problem?

  • Ask and listen
  • Tips for professional

What to Do if You Suspect a Problem

  • Tips for families







Sample excerpt. Preview only – please do not copy.

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse and substance dependence are two substance use disorders. They are different than being intoxicated. With disorders, there are physical, cognitive or social consequences for the person using alcohol or other drugs. In adults, it is important to distinguish between the use of alcohol and other drugs and their misuse.

For the youth with a brain injury, any use is misuse. Use of alcohol or illicit drugs is illegal for youth and can have consequences on that basis alone. But any use of alcohol and other drugs by a youth with a brain injury can slow recovery, worsen symptoms, interact with prescribed medications, or even increase the possibility of seizures.

Relationship of Substance Use to Brain Injury

There are many reasons why substance use and traumatic brain injury often go together.

Alcohol or illicit drugs were used before the injury.

  • Habits of drug use are hard to change and resuming previous use is common. It is even harder if peers drink or use other drugs.

Drug and alcohol use can develop after a brain injury.

  • Adjusting to a disability is stressful. Frustration, anger, and sorrow are natural reactions to losses and changes caused by brain injury. Youths may turn to substances to “feel better”.

Tolerance levels of substances are decreased.

  • The person becomes high faster and longer after a brain injury, regardless of prior patterns of substance use. A smaller quantity of chemicals can produce a magnified, uncharacteristic effect which may feel pleasurable to the youth.

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