There has been an established link between addiction-related disorders and an increased risk for traumatic brain injury, but according to Medscape, the opposite is also true. In the period following mild traumatic brain injury, there is an increased risk for alcohol, tobacco, and other drug addiction, which decreases over time.
The study, published February 22 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, showed a short-term, significant increased risk for alcohol, nicotine, and drug dependence, as well as nondependent abuse of drugs or alcohol, compared to an injured person without traumatic brain injury.
“Our findings suggest an increased risk for incidence of alcohol dependence, nondependent abuse of drugs or alcohol, and nicotine dependence during the first 30 days following mild TBI and a risk thereafter for alcohol dependence for at least 6 months after injury,” Shannon C. Miller, MD, from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Cincinnati wrote.
While drug and nicotine addiction risk drop fairly quickly after the first thirty days of treatment, the current study suggests alcohol dependence risk stays elevated for a lengthy period of time.
It is possible the heightened risk of addiction is a side-effect of the anxiety, depression, and confusion associated with traumatic brain injury, compounded by the minimum of a week spent resting physically and mentally just to recover from the injury. Some recoveries take more than a month of rest.
It is also possible the heightened risk could be brought on more directly by physical injury to the brain. More testing will have to be done before we understand the root cause.