In a periodical distributed by the Brain Injury Association of America, the attorneys at Howell and Christmas found an interesting article pertaining to the connection between brain injuries and substance abuse. Considering the prevalence of brain injuries in America, and the unfortunate reality of widespread substance abuse, the Charleston personal injury lawyers found it important to blog on this topic and, hopefully, provide some useful information to South Carolinians who have sustained a severe brain injury and suffer from substance abuse.
According to the Office on Disability, one out of two people living with a brain injury is also affected by some form of substance abuse. This ratio is in stark contrast to the substance abuse rate among the general population, which is one in ten. The factors that contribute to this disparity in risk include medicine and health problems, an inability to identify potential problems, and a lack of appropriate prevention and treatment services.
Individuals recovering from serious brain injuries face many obstacles including feelings of depression, isolation, and boredom, all of which are fairly common after sustaining a brain injury. Unfortunately, some survivors of brain injuries turn to alcohol and drugs as a means to cope with these feelings, but even casual use of these substances can have extremely negative consequences for those in recovery, as well as those living with brain injuries. Turning to drugs and alcohol is never an effective way to cope with any of life’s troubles, as it only increases the risk of incidents like drunk driving accidents, overdoses, or any other kind of unintended serious accident.
After an injury, the brain is charged with having to re-learn skills by discovering new ways to transmit information and the brain does this by making new connections between neurons. These new connections compensate for the part of the brain that was damaged and using alcohol and drugs slows recovery by interfering with the new connections, inhibiting the brain’s ability to heal. In short, using alcohol and drugs after a brain injury prolongs and frustrates the healing process.
Furthermore, some brain injuries cause problems with balance, coordination, vision, and judgment. It is of no surprise that these difficulties will be compounded by the use of alcohol and drugs. The Brain Injury Association’s article notes that it is very important to remember that no matter how high an individual’s tolerance for alcohol or other drugs prior to a brain or head injury; it is always, always less after the injury. This is because the brain is more sensitive to alcohol and drugs after the injury.
So, how does a person recovering from, or living with, a brain injury seek help for their substance abuse problem? First, it is important to find a treatment program that is experience in treating people with brain injuries, oftentimes substance abuse treatment is not accessible to those living with a brain injury because of learning barriers caused by the injury. Second, it is essential for an individual trying to overcome addiction to work with a counselor who understands the common behaviors associated with brain injuries.
If you or someone you know is living with a brain injury and suffers from substance abuse, treatment can help. Since 1990, Vinland National Center has been helping people with cognitive disabilities address their substance abuse issues and can provide the help one needs to meet and conquer the challenges of recovery.