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Undiagnosed Brain Injuries May be Fueling Your Addiction

Effects of Substance Abuse on Gray Brain Matter

Among the many causes of addiction, the one that is least discussed may be one of the most common—traumatic brain injury (TBI). Some experts believe that TBIs may be found in nearly 60% of substance abusers.

The exact role TBIs play in fueling substance abuse has proven difficult for scientists to pin down. However, some studies have shown that TBIs hinder cognitive performance, which is necessary for taking the mental steps necessary to make progress in substance abuse.

Making Smart Decisions Key to Addiction Recovery

For patients to be successful in substance abuse treatment, they have to be able to weigh the benefits of their actions against the consequences. This type of abstract thinking is handled by the frontal cortex in the brain. During a traumatic brain injury, such as a concussion, this region is damaged. A person with one or more TBIs will not only be more likely to slip into addiction, they will also have a harder time recovering.

If discussions about TBI sound familiar, it may be because this type of injury is central to the argument against contact sports like hockey, boxing, and most recently, football. Many former athletes of these sports have developed:

  • Cognitive performance deficits
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease
  • Depression and bipolar disorder

TBI and Drug Addiction: A Horrible Combination

Not only do experts suspect that TBIs may lead to substance abuse, they have also found that substance abuse increases the negative effects of TBI. A treatment advisory called “Treating Clients with Traumatic Brain Injury” from the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration warns doctors, “A substance abuse history is associated with worse outcomes from TBI including greater likelihood of mortality, complications, and poorer hospital or emergency department discharge status, as well as ongoing disability and non-productivity a year or more after brain injury.”

The advisory goes on to explain of the 20% of TBIs that result in hospitalization, between 30%–80% of patients being treated for TBI have a history of substance abuse and 75% of patients have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system when they are admitted.

You May Have to Wait for TBI Treatment, But Not for Drug Rehab

Currently, diagnosing TBI in the course of substance abuse treatment can be difficult and expensive. Injuries that are serious enough to cause cognitive problems may not even show up on MRIs and other scans.

Some experts are in the process of designing questionnaires that can help substance abuse treatment professionals know if TBI may be hindering client progress, but this subject has a long way to go before it will be fully understood.

Whether or not you suspect that you suffer from TBI, if you know your substance abuse is out of control, you should seek professional help. Drug and alcohol rehab is the best treatment for substance abuse. Banyan Treatment Center offers high-level, medical drug and alcohol rehab at a competitive price. Contact Banyan today to talk to a substance abuse counselor and begin the admission process.

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Undiagnosed Brain Injuries May be Fueling Your Addiction
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