According to MSKTC, “Drinking increases your chances of getting injured again, makes cognitive (thinking) problems worse, and increases your chances of having emotional problems such as depression. In addition, drinking can reduce brain injury recovery.” Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has many side-effects including cognitive problems, depression, difficulty with balance and alcohol only intensifies these challenges. Alcohol can cause dizziness, staggering and falling, and this is not good for anybody. In fact, many TBI injuries are alcohol related. Maria Magana recants how she got her TBI by saying, Sadly my TBI was from an alcohol/benzo issue. Yeah I was dumb as hell, but I learned through the hardest way. So I really hate talking to other TBI people about it.” Alcohol related TBI injuries could be more common than you think. Additionally, accidental alcohol related deaths are not unheard of. Wendy Harris said, “ My uncle was a TBI survivor and he recently passed away bt drinking, falling, ang hitting his head.” Both the coordination issues that comes with alcohol and the balance issues with TBI, together, can cause a deadly combination. Furthermore, MSKTC continued by saying, “ says, “Traumatic brain injury puts survivors at risk for developing seizures (epilepsy). Alcohol lowers the seizure threshold and may trigger seizures.” All of these complications are unnecessary troubles for a TBI survivor to have and we forgot to mention that the majority of TBI survivors are on medications such as muscle relaxers, blood thinners, and seizure medications that more than often counteract with alcohol. With that said, let’s throw the anti alcohol disclaimer out the window and explore the pros and cons of alcohol consumption post TBI.
“Positive” Side Effects of Alcohol
For most, an alcoholic drink or two is a nice way to celebrate an occasion or to go with a nice meal. Some actually despise all alcohol – the taste, feeling, and smell.
But those who love alcohol love the sensation of being tipsy, wild, and feeling out of control. The unusual feeling is also encouraged by peers through a form of peer pressure and FOMO (fear of missing out). You’re at a party, and friends are drinking all around you, so why wouldn’t you, too? Roger Osburn, a fellow TBI survivor answred this question by saying, “Alcohol exacerbates my TBI related challenges. I do not drink anymore but sometimes will have a glass of wine, always remembering later why I don’t. It can be challenging socially.”
For people with alcohol addictions, it’s a way to feel “numb,” separate themselves from reality, and to cope with various mental illnesses. The problem is, individuals with TBI have higher rates of alcohol abuse than their peers, according to NCBI. Additionally, according to MSKTC, “Up to two-thirds of people with TBI have a history of alcohol abuse or risky drinking.” Alcohol consumption and TBI are closely related as is TBI and alcoholism. While recreational alcohol is tolerable for the average person, for a TBI survivor, such behavior is ill-advised. Below is a testimony given by a TBI survivor who requested to stay anonymous. With that said, This is only anecdotal experience, and cannot speak for everybody, and if you would like to share your experience with TBI and alcohol please do so in the comments below.
“Do you want a glass of wine?” A friend I met in the hospital, Ben, came to visit me at my house with a bottle of wine. Ben attempted to make a generous greeting by brandishing a bottle of wine however, I was skeptical in taking part of his offering as I am recovering from a traumatic brain injury. I did not know how alcohol would affect my brain recovery, how alcohol would interfere with my medication, or how alcohol would make me feel. Additionally, I have to get my blood checked regularly, because I am on blood thinners, and I did not know how thin my blood would get by consuming wine. Despite my reluctance, I threw my caution to the wind and I told myself, “I was shot in the head, a glass of wine will not hurt.” I began sipping the wine and next thing I knew it was time to take my muscle relaxers, this was not good. I took my medication and over the course of the night I took three more doses of TBI related medications which was dangerous, stupid, and made me very sick. For the next week my stomach was torn up, I was exhausted, and both my body and mind felt like it was hit by a dozen semi trucks and I still had therapy eight hours a day, everyday for the next week. Luckily I am confined to a wheelchair because had I been walking around drunk or buzzed I would be putting myself at risk for a second brain injury.My experience with the wine I drank was so bad that I cut Ben off and told him we could not hang out again.”