Why It’s Important to Avoid Alcohol after a Brain Injury


Brain injuries that occur through an accident or other trauma can impair several basic functions of the brain. When alcohol is consumed, the effect on the brain can be even worse.

A traumatic brain injury can impact the following areas of your brain:

•    Memory: Brain injuries can impact your short-term memory and concentration.
•    Cognition: Impairment to this function can affect your ability to multitask, pay attention, remain energetic, and cope with noise levels and distractions.
•    Reasoning and Judgment: If your reasoning and judgment are impaired, you may behave inappropriately in social settings. You may act impulsively, intrude into another’s personal space or express oneself without inhibition.
•    Language: Impairment to language can affect your ability to understand others and express ideas clearly.
•    Executive Function: The executive function of the brain controls your ability to initiate, organize, direct, monitor and evaluate.
•    Motor Skills: A brain injury can affect your balance and ability to talk and walk.

Alcohol’s Effect on Your Brain

If you have had a brain injury, there is no amount of alcohol that is safe for you to consume. In fact, you should avoid alcohol completely, especially during the early recovery stage when your brain is healing.

Besides the risk of worsening the effects of a traumatic brain injury, if you have experienced an injury to your brain, alcohol should be avoided for the following reasons:

•    As a toxic and foreign substance in your body, alcohol can interfere with your brain’s natural healing process. This can be detrimental to a full recovery.
•    Your brain won’t be able to absorb alcohol as well as it used to, causing the effects of alcohol to be stronger than they were before.
•    If you are using prescription pain medications during your recovery, alcohol may interfere with the effectiveness of the medications.
•    If you have developed depression as a side effect of your brain injury, drinking alcohol will only cause the symptoms of your depression to worsen because it is a depressant.
•    Alcohol can affect your balance, judgment, vision and coordination, all of which puts you at a higher risk for experiencing another brain injury.

Treating Brain Injury and Substance Abuse

If you have experienced a brain injury and are entering treatment for substance abuse, it is important to let the treatment team know so that they can better help you to recover from your alcohol addiction. Because the symptoms of a brain injury are similar to those of substance abuse, it is up to you to reveal if there has been any damage to your brain.

If you are unsure of if you have had a brain injury, seek medical attention immediately. This may happen if you were in a car accident or hit your head on the sidewalk after, for example, falling off of your bike. If you have been dealing with substance abuse, there is a greater chance of you missing the signs of a brain injury because they are masked by alcohol.