I was very captivated by the group’s presentation on Traumatic Brain Injuries. One question that kept me up late at night is:
As I perused the literature on addiction and TBIs, I found multiple documents linking addicts to TBIs. In fact, more than 50% of all patients who experience traumatic brain injury concurrently have a problem with alcohol or drugs. It makes sense to me because drugs can inhibit senses and increase risk taking behavior, which can lead to disastrous injuries.
However, I was interested in finding what happens to these addicts after the TBI. Robert Katz (Ph.D. Program Director Brady Institute for Traumatic Brain Injury) reviewed literature on the topic. Here’s what he found:
The CDC estimated that 5.3 million Americans live with disabilities due to brain injury and that 67% of people in rehabilitation for brain injury have a previous history of substance abuse. 50% of these people will return to using alcohol and drugs after the injury. Another study found that 20-60% of TBI survivors were identified as preinjury problem drinkers, with 30-50% of these survivors continuing to have problems with alcohol postinjury. Similarly, a different study put preinjury alcohol abuse at 40-66%, and postinjury alcohol abuse between 27%-50% of TBI survivors. Furthermore,TBI survivors were found to have a significantly increased sensitivity to alcohol’s effects postinjury; 20% of persons with brain injuries who did not use alcohol or drugs prior to the injury, were vulnerable to alcohol and drug use after the injury.
So all in all, the future for addicts that suffer a TBI does not look very bright. The range of alcohol abuse appears slightly lower after injuries, but research is showing that drug abuse is highly underreported after traumatic brain injuries. Perhaps because the individuals are so ashamed of falling back into their unhealthy habits.
I leave you with one of my guilty pleasures- a True Life episode about three boys living post-TBI: