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Substance Abuse and Brain Injury Recovery

Substance abuse and brain injury has an unfortunate correlation. Here are the facts:

  • 67% of people in brain injury rehab have a history of substance abuse prior to their injury
  • Persons who have sustained brain injury test positive for alcohol in two thirds of moving vehicle crashes and 60% of assaults. (Statistics do not include perpetrators' use of alcohol or other drugs.)
  • Approximately 20% of persons who did not have substance abuse problems before their injury are vulnerable after brain injury.

Alcohol and other drugs not only contribute to causing brain injuries, they can seriously interfere with recovery. Educating families and persons recovering from brain injury about the effects of alcohol and other drugs is an important task for all rehab professionals. The User's Manual provides reasons why the use of alcohol and other drugs is incompatible with healthy recovery after brain injury. The reasons are summarized in the Top 10 List below.

10. An individual who uses alcohol and other drugs after a brain injury will not recover as much or as fast as a person who does not use.

9. Problems of balance, walking and talking are exacerbated by alcohol and other drugs.

8. Problems of disinhibition are also exacerbated by alcohol and other drugs.

7. Difficulty with problem solving, memory,concentration and other thinking skills are made worse with the use of alcohol and other drugs.

6. Alcohol and other drugs have a more powerful and quicker effect on a person after a brain injury.

5. Alcohol increases depression because it is a depressant drug.

4. Alcohol and other drugs interact with medications often prescribed after a brain injury, especially those administered for seizure control, depression, anxiety or restlessness and pain.

3. Use of alcohol and other drugs after an injury increases a person's risk of another injury.

2. Alcohol is a drug. (That means beer, too!)

1. The cumulative effect of the other nine reasons.


This website has been funded with financial assistance from Grant #H133A120086 awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to the Ohio Valley Center for Brain Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation for the current funding period of 10/01/2012 - 09/30/2017.