Does a Traumatic Brain Injury Increase Risk for Substance Abuse?

Does a Traumatic Brain Injury Increase Risk for Substance Abuse?

Traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, happen more often than people realize. These injuries usually result from a violent blow or jolt to the head or body, which can happen in sports, car accidents or slips and falls. When a TBI occurs, the brain cells are temporarily affected. But more serious TBIs can result in bruising, torn tissues, bleeding and other brain damage. 

Several complications can occur from a TBI depending on how mild or severe the injury is. Some symptoms happen right after the injury and include a loss of consciousness or headache. Other symptoms may show up later and have a negative effect on social, emotional, behavioral, intellectual and cognitive abilities. 

With so many wide-ranging physical and psychological effects on the brain, it’s no surprise that some people with TBIs struggle with symptoms long after the injury occurs. So, if you or a loved one is battling substance abuse after an injury, you may be wondering if the TBI is to blame. And, it’s possible that it could be. 

Research Shows Strong Link Between TBIs and Substance Abuse 

According to research, traumatic brain injuries and substance abuse often co-occur together. The reason is twofold. First, people who regularly abuse drugs and alcohol are at a greater risk for suffering a brain injury. If they do experience a TBI, they are also more likely to continue abusing substances to deal with the effects. 

However, even people without a prior history of drug or alcohol use are at a heightened risk for addiction following a TBI. They, too, might have a need to self-medicate to feel better, especially if the TBI left them with depression and other mood changes. It’s estimated that 10-20 percent of people with a TBI develop a substance abuse problem for the first time. 

Examining the Relationship Between TBIs and Drug Dependence 

Drug and alcohol use is not recommended following a TBI, especially if you’ve already struggled with alcohol recovery in Denver in the past. A growing body of research shows the adverse effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain following a brain injury. In these studies, researchers see significant negative outcomes like unemployment, homelessness, isolation, criminal activity and lower life satisfaction. 

Here are a few examples of how substance abuse affects those with a brain injury: 

  • Using drugs and alcohol after a TBI prevents the brain from healing as it should. Also, while the brain is fragile, drugs and alcohol have a more powerful effect
  • Brain injuries can cause problems with balance and walking. Adding drugs or alcohol to the mix can put the person at risk for another brain injury. Multiple TBIs are harder to recover from and tend to have long-lasting effects.
  • Someone with a brain injury might say or do things without thinking. Drugs and alcohol heightens this impulsivity. 
  • Following a brain injury, people are more likely to suffer a seizure when under the influence. Again, this can lead to another head injury. 
  • People with a brain injury are at an increased risk for depression and other mood disorders. Turning to drugs and alcohol is common, but they only further affect the mood. 

person in hospital

How to Prevent Substance Abuse in Someone with a TBI 

It’s clear that brain injuries and substance abuse go hand in hand. Brain injuries increase impulsivity and cravings because the decision-making part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) is impaired. This makes it that much easier to return to substance abuse or start a substance abuse problem. 

If you or a loved one has a TBI, what can you do to lower the risk for developing a substance abuse problem? 

  • Consider a holistic outpatient program. A holistic Denver treatment center can offer support and guidance as the person navigates their new life. In these programs, the mind and body are equally addressed and the brain’s neurophysiology is re-regulated. 
  • Stay away from substances. If you know that drugs and alcohol can cause this many problems for a healing brain, it’s best to steer clear from them. The brain is more sensitive, so even a glass of wine or can of beer can have a significant impact. 
  • Promote brain healing. Follow a healthy regimen to help heal the brain. This includes getting enough rest, writing down the things you can’t remember, eating brain-healthy foods, staying hydrated and avoiding drugs, alcohol and caffeine. 

The Role an Outpatient Rehab in Denver Can Play in the Healing Process 

Continuum Recovery Center of Colorado offers holistic outpatient addiction treatment in Denver. We focus on healing the whole person, which is extremely important when providing care to someone with a TBI and substance abuse problem. We utilize medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to aid in detox and discourage the use of drugs. 

Being on the right medications can also address mental health issues and make it easier to avoid drugs and alcohol for self-medication purposes. Our clients also participate in group and individual counseling, and we’re able to personalize these sessions to meet the needs and abilities of our clients. 

Because it can take a long time for the brain to heal, and some TBIs never fully recover, we strongly recommend long-term treatment in the form of support groups, counseling and medication. This ongoing support teaches people how to continue healing their mind and body through diet and exercise, as well as how to assess high-risk situations. 

Start Your Journey to Healing Today 

To learn more about our rehab facilities in Denver for people with TBIs and substance abuse, contact Continuum Recovery Center of Colorado. Our team is well-trained in working with these individuals and the various layers that need care and attention. Even after treatment, we provide detailed aftercare plans to help clients progress through their substance abuse recovery and their brain injury recovery.