The Connection Between TBIs and Alcohol Abuse

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Alcohol abuse occurs when an individual ingests large and unhealthy amounts of alcohol. The definition of one standard drink, as provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) includes one of: 

  • 12 ounces of regular beer with approximately 5% alcohol content 
  • 8 – 9 ounces of malt liquor with approximately 7% alcohol content
  • 5 ounces of unfortified wine with approximately 12% alcohol content
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof hard liquor with approximately 40% alcohol content

The NIAAA defines alcohol abuse as a “pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent – or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter – or higher. For a typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male) or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours.” As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol works by slowing down vital functions in one’s body. After an individual consumes alcohol, it is absorbed from the small intestine and stomach into his or her bloodstream and is then metabolized in the liver. The liver, however, is only able to metabolize a small amount of alcohol at a time, which leaves excess alcohol to circulate throughout one’s body via the bloodstream. The amount of alcohol consumed directly relates to its effects on one’s body.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is “a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.” TBI can affect one’s physical, neurological, and/ or emotional functioning. The symptoms that manifest because of a TBI will vary significantly, as they depend on the type of injury, the severity of the injury, as well as the area of the brain that was injured.

The Connection

Experts have found alcohol use and TBI are inextricably and bidirectionally linked. After TBI one’s brain is more sensitive to alcohol. According to information from various studies compiled by Vanderbilt University Medical Center up to two-thirds of people with TBI have a history of alcohol abuse or precarious drinking. Between 30 – 50% of people with TBI were injured while they were drunk. Approximately half of those who have a TBI reduce their alcohol intake or stop altogether after injury, but some people with TBI continue to drink heavily, which exponentially increases their risk of having adverse and in some cases life-threatening outcomes. 

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-318-3777. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com

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