It is estimated that 38% of brain trauma in young people occurs as a result of alcohol or drug use. Older adults will also be at much higher risk of such injuries when they are under the influence. Up to half of all fatal traffic accidents can be attributed to intoxication. Most crashes don’t lead to fatalities but many do cause permanent brain injuries. Intoxicants also often play a part in violent assaults that lead to this type of trauma.
Any type of head trauma can have a devastating impact on the individual’s future life. The brain is the control center for the rest of the body, and damage may lead to irreversible changes in functioning. The individual may become completely dependent on other people. They can lose their memories. It can even mean that their personality is never the same again afterwards.
Brain trauma refers to any injury that occurs to this organ due to an external mechanical force. This damage may have been caused by:
* Penetration by a projectile
* Vehicle crashes
* Being struck by an object
* Colliding with an object
The brain injury can be temporary or permanent. Sometimes there will be structural damage that is difficult to detect.
Alcohol and drug abuse increases the risk of brain trauma. Intoxication means that people are more likely to have an accident because:
* Loss of inhibition means that they will be more willing to get involved in risky behavior
* Such individuals will be more willing to get involved in crime
* Intoxicated people are more likely to be involved in physical confrontations
* People who are high or drunk will have poor coordination and this puts them more at risk of accidents
* Those who drink and drive are far more likely to be involved in a crash
* These individuals will tend to make poor decisions
* Alcohol and drug abuse leads to self-harm and suicide attempts
There is a common belief that intoxicated individuals will tend to suffer less serious injuries in an accident because of their relaxed state. This is summed up in the well known saying, God protects small children and drunks. The reality is that such people may be more likely to suffer a head injury. One study in the US examined 1450 car crashes and found that head injury were more common when alcohol was part of the equation.
An early warning sign of a serious brain trauma will be changes in the behavior of the individual. They may appear confused or agitated. Unfortunately the symptoms are very similar to those exhibited by people who are intoxicated. This means that it can be a lot more difficult to diagnose such injuries in people who have been using alcohol or drugs. Every second counts when it comes to treating brain trauma. The odd behavior of the individual may be a warning sign that their brain is beginning to swell. If the clinician mistakes the symptoms of head trauma with intoxication the results can be fatal.
It is vital that clinicians are able to obtain a coherent history of the patient. If the individual is intoxicated they will be unable to provide an accurate account. This makes it much harder for doctors to assess the extent of any injury.
Alcohol and drug abuse can make it harder for the individual to recover from brain trauma. Such people may already have poor health due to substance abuse. This will interfere with the body’s ability to heal. Many addicts will also have nutritional deficiencies that further delay recovery. Another complication can be that the individual will also have to deal with withdrawal symptoms along with their brain trauma.
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