Brain Injury and Alcohol Abuse

By M. CHRIS WOLF, PH.D.

Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Broken into Pieces: How alcohol, drugs and a fast car shattered a family?s dreams and one young man?s future.

Regarding Brain Injury and Alcohol Abuse, Dr. Kevin J. Heltemes and colleagues recently reported on "Alcohol Abuse Disorders Among U.S. Service Members With Mild Traumatic Brain Injury."

As reported in our May 2011 News post, (TBI) has emerged as the signature injury our soldiers after a decade of war in the Middle East.

Dr. Heltemes study of 3,123 male U.S. service members with combat injuries indicates that a slightly higher proportion of service members with mild TBI were diagnosed with an alcohol abuse disorder compared to those with other injury (6. 1 % vs. 4.9%).

This is a disturbing finding. Why?

Persons with brain disease are often more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. Continued alcohol use often contributes to depression.

Alochol use after any injury to the brain can have potentially dangerous interactions with prescribed medications.

Following a brain damage of any kind, complete abstinence from alcohol is strongly advised based upon research.

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Simply put, use of alcohol can significantly impair cognitive abilities. Use of alcohol following a brain wounds increases the probability for another head injury.

Rather than helping emotional distress, alcohol use usually contributes to greater stress within the brain wounded survivor, family members, and friends.

A body of research clearly has shown that people with brain injury are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol and drugs. They feel the effects of alcohol or drugs more quickly.

This is why physicians who have experience with TBI or other brain diseased patients will often prescribe lower doses of medication than would be recommended for someone without an injury to their brain.

IMPORTANT: People with brain damage may be taking medications for seizures, pain, sleep or mood. Consuming alcohol with these medications can be fatal.

Memory loss and confusion are already problems with most injuries to the brain. Consuming alcohol will only make these cognitive problems worse!

Alcohol is a blood thinner. Consuming alcohol will make you more vulnerable bleeding within your brain. If you have had a stroke or fall causing injury to your brain, consuming alcohol could be deadly.

Finally, using alcohol increases the possibility that you will have a second injury because people under the influence of alcohol tend to do things they would not normal do. This may result in falls, car crashes, etc.

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For more information on this topic see these resources:

SVAT AL100 Breathalyzer Personal Digital Breath Alcohol Tester Detector Analyzer

Making a Good Brain Great: The Amen Clinic Program for Achieving and Sustaining Optimal Mental Performance by Daniel G. Amen

How to Change Your Drinking: a Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol (2nd edition) Kenneth Anderson, G. Alan Marlatt PhD,and Patt Denning PhD.






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