Today we’re sharing some important facts about traumatic brain injury and alcohol.
Brain injury survivors are more vulnerable to alcohol’s effects than the average person. That’s why it’s important to be fully informed about possible risks before having that drink.
Let’s dig in.
The Dangers of Consuming Alcohol After Traumatic Brain Injury
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it suppresses normal brain function. It does this by affecting the chemical balance of the brain.
This is also what happens after a brain injury. The delicate balance of chemicals in the brain is disturbed, and the brain can no longer function efficiently.
That explains why a person is usually much more sensitive to alcohol after a TBI.
For people without a brain injury, the effects of alcohol are not all that harmful (unless they are consistent heavy drinkers).
But if your brain function is already damaged, then suppressing it further will have a much greater impact.
Here are some of the effects that alcohol can have on a person with traumatic brain injury.
1. Alcohol Slows Down Recovery
After a brain injury, many brain cells are either severely damaged or destroyed. That leaves the few surviving brain cells responsible for all the work required to heal.
Alcohol, as we said above, hampers brain cell function, which means those cells which are already working hard to compensate for lost cells will lose their ability to function efficiently.
As a result, they can’t work as fast to heal, and your recovery will be slowed down. If you drink too much, some of the gains you make could even be reversed.
2. Alcohol Increases Your Chances of Repeat Injury
This is one of the main reasons doctors recommend avoiding alcohol after TBI.
Because TBI patients are more sensitive to alcohol’s effects, drinking will cause your judgment to be even more impaired than usual, which can lead to reckless behavior and injury.
In addition, alcohol can affect your balance and vision, which increases your chances of falling.
3. Alcohol Magnifies TBI Side Effects
Because alcohol and brain injury both suppress mental function, many TBI side effects can be aggravated by alcohol use.
Not only does it decrease cognitive skills and make it even harder to process information, it can worsen symptoms of depression.
Alcohol can also interfere with many medications that TBI patients take, which is just one more reason to be extra cautious.
4. Alcohol Increases Risk of Seizures
Because traumatic brain injury also increases a person’s risk of seizure, people with TBI should be careful when drinking.
How to Drink Alcohol after TBI Safely
Because of all the harmful effects alcohol can have on TBI patients, many decide to quit drinking altogether.
However, some people would still like to have an occasional drink with friends, and this is fine, as long as you are responsible and follow these guidelines:
- Limit number of drinks. Do not have more than one or two drinks per night. Remember, your brain is much more sensitive now.
- Drink beer instead of liquor. Beer has less alcohol content than hard liquor and will have less of an effect on you.
- Pace yourself. Sip your drink slowly, and take breaks from drinking every 20 minutes. Drink some water during these breaks.
- If you used to drink before your injury, some of your friends might be confused and try to pressure you to drink more. Let them know about the impact alcohol has on traumatic brain injury recovery. This should prevent social pressure.
- Eat before drinking. Food slows down alcohol absorption. This will keep your blood-alcohol levels from spiking too fast.
- DO NOT DRIVE. Even if you have only had one drink, it’s just not worth the risk.
- Don’t drink alone. Make sure you are with someone who knows and can help you in an emergency.
- Take vitamins. B1, B12 and folate can reduce the chances of developing brain damage from alcohol.
Alcohol after Traumatic Brain Injury
Alcohol consumption is riskier for TBI patients than for the average person. It can severely dampen brain function, slow down their recovery process, and increase a person’s chances of repeat injury.
With that said, this doesn’t mean you can never drink again, it just means that you’ll need to exercise more caution when you do.
We hope the information in this article helps you make safe and responsible decisions about alcohol after brain injury.