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Why You Shouldn’t Drink After a Traumatic Brain Injury

Alcohol and traumatic brain injury have a complex relationship, but one thing is clear: drinking after a traumatic brain injury can hurt your recovery chances.

The connection between alcohol and traumatic brain injury (TBI) is staggering. Of TBI victims, two thirds have a history of alcohol abuse. Almost half of TBI victims were drunk at the time of their accident. On top of that, it is well known that excessive alcohol can cause brain damage even in healthy individuals.

TBI, whether from a fall or an auto accident, kills or disconnects brain cells. Recovery means repairing those connections and making new ones. But the subsequent brain damage done by alcohol can interfere with those connections and slow recovery.

On top of the risk to recovery, alcohol can also combine with the effects of brain injury in dangerous ways. For example, TBI can cause problems with balance, walking, and talking, which get worse when a person uses alcohol. Alcohol is also a depressant, which could increase the already high risk of depression during the first year of TBI recovery.

That’s why scientists are urging that there is no safe level of alcohol use following a traumatic brain injury like a concussion. Victims of these injuries should eliminate their alcohol consumption. That can mean breaking long-standing habits. Here are some strategies to do that:

  • Find people (family, friends, and others) who will support efforts to curb drinking.
  • Set a specific goal.
  • Make clear how that goal will be met.
  • Identify situations or emotions that trigger drinking and find ways to cope with these triggers beforehand.
  • Provide rewards for meeting goals.

Supportive family members can be a key to successfully eliminating alcohol and speeding TBI recovery. If you know someone facing this significant life change, let the victim know know you are there by:

  • Avoiding drinking in front of him or her;
  • Offer to go along to classes or meetings;
  • Offer to be an accountability partner or a listening ear when situations trigger thoughts of drinking; and
  • Help him or her find a group like Alcoholics Anonymous that can provide assistance.

A traumatic brain injury can change a person’s life, abilities, and habits in an instant. As a part of a victim’s support structure, family and friends can help with a successful recovery. That includes encouraging the victim to get the treatment he or she needs and to stop using alcohol. It could be the difference between quick recovery and a long road to health.

David Christensen is a brain injury expert at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He and his team are looking out for TBI victims by helping them get the insurance benefits they need to cover their medical treatments. If you or someone you love is suffering from a traumatic brain injury as a result of an auto accident, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.