New Study Finds Drug and Alcohol Abuse Higher Among Teens with Traumatic Brain Injury
Researchers in Canada found that teenagers with a history of concussions, or traumatic brain injury, are more likely than their peers to abuse drugs and alcohol.
“Overall, a teen with a history of TBI is at least twice as likely as a classmate who hasn’t suffered a brain injury to drink alcohol, use cannabis or abuse other drugs,” said study investigator, Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital and a researcher with the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science. “But when you look at specific drugs, those rates are often higher.”
The study analyzed data from a 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, which had data from 6,383 teenagers. They found that one in five students between grades 9 and 12 reported they’d had a traumatic brain injury. The students who had suffered a traumatic brain injury were 2 to 4 times more likely to use non-prescribed prescription drugs like opioid painkillers and tranquilizers, as well as illegal “street drugs” like marijuana, cocaine, and crystal meth.
The Toronto-based study was published on Wednesday, November 26th in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation. The researchers defined traumatic brain injury as any hit or blow to the head that resulted in being knocked unconscious for at least five minutes, or spending at least one night in the hospital for symptoms associated with head trauma.
Along with illegal drug use, the students who had suffered a traumatic brain injury were also 2.5 times more likely to have smoked one or more cigarettes in the past year, and were almost twice as likely as their peers to engage in binge drinking in the previous month. Binge drinking is defined as 5 or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting.
“It’s a really toxic combination when you have the two together,” Cusimano said of mixing a head trauma with alcohol or drug use. “And it’s alarming how early this is occurring. This is Grade 9 to Grade 12.”
“We know that people who have alcohol or substance use problems don’t recover as well from a brain injury,” Cusimano continued. “They can’t participate as well in the rehab, and they don’t recover their original abilities as well as people who have not been using drugs and alcohol.”
“People with these injuries may be using these substances more, but the effects of the injury may be such that it may predispose them to use the substances more often as well,” said Dr. Robert Mann, a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health who co-led the study. “On the other hand, we also know that people who are substance users may be more likely to have these kinds of injuries. The classic example is alcohol. Alcohol impairs psychomotor performance, so you’re more likely to have an injury, perhaps more likely to have a head injury.”
The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Personal Injury Cases Related to Concussions and TBI
If your child received a concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of negligence on the part of the school or sports league, you may have a personal injury case. The attorneys at Strom Law, LLC can help. We offer free consultations to help get you on the road to recovery, so contact us today. 803.252.4800.