February 27, 2024

How Are Brain Trauma and Alcohol Linked?

doctor looking at brain scans representing Brain trauma and alcohol

Brain trauma and alcohol are strongly interconnected. Two in three of those with TBIs (traumatic brain injuries) have a history of alcohol abuse or problematic patterns of drinking. Between 30% and 50% of TBIs occur in individuals who were intoxicated at the time of injury, while up to 30% were under the influence of other addictive substances. After brain injury from alcohol, almost half of affected individuals moderate or discontinue the use of alcohol. Regrettably, others continue consuming alcohol excessively, increasing the risk of adverse outcomes.

Following brain trauma, many people find that their brain becomes more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. Consuming alcohol not only heightens the chance of sustaining further injuries, but it also exacerbates cognitive impairments and can trigger emotional challenges like depression. Beyond this, alcohol can disrupt recovery from brain injuries. This means that anyone who experiences a TBI should abstain from alcohol to prevent additional brain damage and promote recovery. Read on to learn more about alcohol brain injury and discover how to connect with effective alcohol addiction treatment.

Connections Between Traumatic Brain Injury and Alcohol

The path to recovery from a traumatic brain injury is long and not always linear. Many people experience significant improvements for years following the TBI. Alcohol is known to disrupt this recovery process, potentially even derailing recovery completely. Abstaining from alcohol, on the other hand, sets the stage for optimal brain healing, with the period of potential improvement stretching well beyond the initial recovery phase. Avoiding alcohol not only supports healing, but it also dramatically improves the likelihood of positive long-term outcomes.

For anyone who has endured a TBI, the risk of seizures becomes a pressing concern. Alcohol consumption is a potential trigger for seizures. Quitting alcohol, by contrast, can serve as a protective measure, reducing the risk of seizures and promoting an environment more conducive to recovery.

Those with a history of traumatic brain injuries are particularly vulnerable to experiencing another TBI, especially if the initial injury was related to alcohol. This increased risk is due to the combined effects of alcohol and TBIs on vision, balance, and coordination.

Alcohol and traumatic brain injuries strongly impact cognitive health, both independently and when combined. Memory is affected as well as the ability to think flexibly. Alcohol may also worsen cognitive deficits caused by TBI.

People who suffer a traumatic brain injury are much more likely to experience episodes of depression than the general population. Alcohol abuse can inflame symptoms of depression, and it may also interfere with the effectiveness of antidepressants. Moderating or discontinuing the use of alcohol during recovery from TBI can mitigate depressive episodes.

man looking away representing Tbi alcohol

Alcohol Abuse and Brain Damage

Head trauma and alcohol are interrelated in ways that extend beyond the immediate effects of intoxication. Chronic consumption of alcohol can lead to long-term changes in brain function and structure, manifesting in various adverse outcomes that compound the challenges faced by those in recovery from TBIs.

How alcohol abuse affects brain structure and neurotransmitters

Any prolonged abuse of alcohol can trigger irreversible damage to the structure of the brain. This includes atrophy – shrinking of brain tissues – especially in the regions of the brain that govern memory, cognition, and coordination. These alterations can complicate recovery for survivors of TBIs. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change, but the compounded effects of alcohol-induced damage muddies this potential.

Alcohol abuse also interferes with the brain’s neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers essential for regulating mood, behavior, and cognitive functions, as well as impaired cognitive capabilities. Individuals with TBIs may already be experiencing similar symptoms due to their injuries, and any abuse of alcohol can intensify these issues, rendering recovery much more complicated.

Cognitive impairments and recovery

Alcohol abuse is associated with cognitive impairments. Alcohol brain damage symptoms may include problems with:

  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Problem solving

All of these elements can severely impact a person’s ability to engage with rehabilitation exercises and therapies effectively. Cognitive impairments can slow the recovery process from TBI, limiting the gains from rehabilitation efforts and potentially worsening overall quality of life.

By integrating alcohol addiction treatment into rehabilitation efforts for TBIs can help in preventing further brain damage and promoting brain recovery.

TBI and Alcoholism Statistics

Research shows that between 30% and 50% of TBIs are related to alcohol in some way.

Following a traumatic brain injury, some people may be prone to using alcohol as a coping mechanism, even if they are aware of the risks involved. While research shows that roughly half of those who suffer a TBI discontinue alcohol consumption and that others moderate consumption, some people continue to drink in the aftermath of injury, perhaps even at an increased rate. Continued consumption will impair recovery and increase the risk of someone developing future TBIs and alcohol use disorder (the clinical term for alcoholism).

The link between alcohol and TBI is a twin challenge for recovery and rehabilitation. Those who have a history of traumatic brain injury are at heightened risk of developing alcohol dependence. Additionally, the physical, emotional, and cognitive impairments precipitated by a TBI can complicate the recovery process, calling for specialized treatment approaches that target both the TBI and alcohol use disorder simultaneously – read on to learn how we can help you with this at Gratitude Lodge.

Is Brain Damage from Alcohol Abuse Reversible?

The reversibility of brain damage triggered by alcohol abuse hinges on the duration and severity of use, co-occurring physical or mental health conditions, and the presence of issues like TBIs. Although some effects of alcohol on the brain can be at least partially reversible, others may be more enduring.

Due to the brain’s neuroplasticity, it can reorganize, forming new neural connections in response to experiences or learning. This capacity means that most people are able to recover to some degree from cognitive deficits triggered by chronic alcohol abuse – especially with sustained abstinence. Improvements may occur in cognitive functions like attention, memory, and problem-solving.

That said, the extent of reversibility is contingent on several factors. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to significant structural changes in the brain, including brain shrinkage and damage to neurons, which may not fully recover. Additionally, the presence of co-occurring conditions such as TBI can complicate recovery, as both conditions independently contribute to cognitive and functional impairments.

Rehabilitation efforts play a central role in maximizing recovery potential. Tailored rehab programs that focus on cognitive and physical therapies can enhance neuroplasticity and help people with TBIs regain lost functions. Supportive interventions – including nutritional support, physical activity, and social engagement, for instance – also contribute to brain health and can streamline recovery.

Beyond this, addressing alcohol dependence through counseling, support groups, and, when necessary, medical interventions can help people achieve and maintain sobriety, which is a controlling factor in allowing the brain to recover from the effects of alcohol abuse.

an image of gratitude lodge representing Brain injury from alcohol

Get Treatment for Mental Health & Alcohol Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

Alcohol affects the body and brain, with alcohol addiction disrupting the lives of the whole family, not just the person abusing alcohol. Fortunately, alcohol use disorder responds positively to science-backed treatment, and we can help you with this at Gratitude Lodge in Long Beach and Newport Beach, California.

Begin your recovery from alcoholism by engaging with our medical detox program. With access to continuous care and FDA-approved medications, you’ll move beyond alcohol dependence and transition smoothly into ongoing inpatient treatment at one of our luxury facilities located in serene beachside settings.

All Gratitude Lodge treatment programs account for the unique nature of each addiction by offering targeted treatments, such as:

Take advantage of effective and evidence-based treatment for mental health and addictions at Gratitude Lodge. Call 800-994-2184 for immediate assistance.

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Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.
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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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