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Deployment-Related Traumatic Brain Injury and Co-Occurring Conditions

A Course for Civilian Health Care Providers from BrainLineMilitary.org

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Substance Use

Returning service members have a higher rate of alcohol and substance use than Americans of the same age who have not seen combat. One of the contributing factors may be self-medication for chronic pain or sleep problems, according to nurse practitioner Helen Coronel:

VIDEO: Drinking Alcohol Is Counter-Productive When Trying to Get Good Sleep After a Brain Injury

Drinking Alcohol Is Counter-Productive When Trying to Get Good Sleep After a Brain Injury

"Typically it's sleep that's going to get them to use alcohol as a self-medication…"

 

Cognitive and mental issues arising from combat exposure can also contribute to drug abuse. With so many contributing factors, the rate of substance abuse is high in returning service members who have had a concussion.

VIDEO: Alcohol Abuse Is Unfortunately All Too Common for Young Service Members with TBI

Alcohol Abuse Is Unfortunately All Too Common for Young Service Members with TBI

"In my career prior to this, I've never seen a large population of young men drink to this extent in the numbers that I've seen."

 

After a concussion, alcohol and other drug use can:

  • lengthen the time of recovery.
  • further damage a brain that’s already injured.
  • lower the threshold for seizures.
  • increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior.
  • interfere with cognition that is already compromised by injury.

The age of the service members as well as the military culture they come from also contribute to this issue.

VIDEO: The Brain Is More Vulnerable to the Effects of Alcohol After a Concussion

The Brain Is More Vulnerable to the Effects of Alcohol After a Concussion

Dr. Boyd explains how to talk about alcohol use with this population.



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