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Traumatic Brain Injuries and Substance Abuse

Nov 28, 2007
Medical practitioners commonly acknowledge that substance abuse plays a part in many cases of traumatic brain injury. A victim may have engaged in recreational drug use or alcohol abuse before the injury, the brain injury event may have been caused by intoxication, and problems with substance abuse can arise in victims of traumatic brain injury after they are discharged from medical facilities.

What role does substance abuse play in traumatic brain injury? What can you do if a loved one suffering from traumatic brain injury is also struggling with drug or alcohol abuse?

Who Is At Risk For Traumatic Brain Injury?

Alcohol abuse plays a major role in traumatic brain injury, with many incidents occurring in relation to automobile crashes or heavy equipment used while under the influence. The medical community recognizes that young males are the most likely to suffer from alcohol-related TBI.

These incidents may be isolated, but many fall within a context of broader substance abuse: for example, a longitudinal study at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio has found that nearly 60 percent of their patient sample had prior histories of drug and alcohol abuse.

Those with prior histories of serious substance abuse can have an even harder time while hospitalized than those with no prior history. This is due to the fact that many patients are both recovering from their brain injuries and dealing with the frustrating physical and emotional effects of detoxification.

The presence of drug or alcohol abuse can also complicate diagnoses, as many of the symptoms of overdose (respiratory depression, lethargy, confusion, apathy, and disorientation) are similar to those of traumatic brain injury. Thus, TBI is sometimes overlooked, leading to complications and ongoing symptoms related to insufficient care.

After Discharge: Substance Abuse A Risk For TBI Patients

The struggles with substance abuse do not necessarily end when a traumatic brain injury patient is released from the hospital and discharged to his or her home and community. In fact, they are sometimes just beginning: the difficulty of adjusting to personality changes, emotional upheaval, inability to work, memory and cognitive deficits and other effects of TBI can cause extreme stress and lead a brain-injured patient to indulge in drugs or alcohol to numb the pain.

The brain injury victim may be unable to report his or her own substance abuse problem due to memory problems or speech disorders related to his or her TBI; similarly, they may already exhibit external symptoms some would associate with intoxication and may feel that it doesn't matter if they actually indulge in those substances since their physical symptoms already make them seem as if they do.

What Can Families Do About Substance Abuse and Traumatic Brain Injury?

Families can play a large role in both recognizing and intervening in substance abuse in a traumatic brain injury survivor. Since families usually take on a caretaker role after a brain injured victim is discharged from intensive medical care, they are often the first to recognize that their family member has a substance abuse problem.

Families can help inform health care providers of these issues, encourage their loved one to seek rehabilitation, and refuse to enable the addictive behaviors of a traumatic brain injury victim with a substance abuse problem. They can also provide a supportive atmosphere that is drug-free and oriented towards rehabilitation and high function. However, substance abuse can have an enormous negative impact on family members who suffer emotionally as their loved one slides into dangerous habits.

It is essential that families of traumatic brain injury survivors with associated substance abuse issues seek out their own support, either through a professional counselor or a local Al-Anon group, in order to cope with the ravages of substance abuse.

Some families may wish to hire an experienced brain injury attorney to help them address not only medical care for substance abuse treatment, but the myriad of other issues related to traumatic brain injury. TBI is stressful on families and individuals; a savvy brain injury lawyer can help navigate the system, obtain necessary services, and even seek financial compensation for expenses such as lost wages, future medical care, medication and hospital costs, and pain and suffering.
About the Author
LegalView.com is your source for everything legal. Visit http://legalview.com. Visitors to LegalView.com can get help to find a construction accident lawyer , a mesothelioma attorney, and more. You can also get help to find a brain injury lawyer at http://brain-injury.legalview.com
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