Head & Brain Injury Advice and Resources


Mild TBI Temporarily Raises Risk of Alcohol Addiction

A study published in the March 2013 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry shows that mild TBI significantly increases the risk for alcohol addiction for a period of six months following injury with the risk gradually declining to normal thereafter. The findings come from a study of 5065 active-duty airmen who had sustained a mild TBI resulting in transient confusion or disorientation, memory loss, and/or brief loss of consciousness, and a comparison group of 44,733 airmen who had sustained other types of injury. After accounting for factors such as gender, marital status, ethnicity, age, deployment status, education level, rank, and career field, the team found that the risk for alcohol dependence was significantly increased in individuals with a mild TBI at 1-30, 31-179, and 180 days post diagnosis compared with those in the comparison group, at hazard ratios (HR) of 3.48, 2.66, and 1.70, respectively.

The study authors Whitehead et al. commented that: “Any alcohol use after TBI is concerning given the potential for reduction in spontaneous healing, risk of seizure or repeat TBI, and exacerbation of residual cognitive, emotional, and behavioral impairments.” They concluded that: “Screening for addiction-related disorders should be considered as part of routine care for mild TBI and might best capture the first 30 days post-mild TBI, with repeat alcohol screening thereafter for at least 6 months following the injury.” Families of people who have sustained a mild TBI should be vigilant in watching their drinking habits.