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Substance Use and Acquired Brain Injury

General Information & Resources

Addiction itself is a very complicated issue. As many know, brain injury is also very complex with many variables. Therefore, a combination of the two can bring forth a number of challenges.

Studies have shown there is a strong correlation between substance abuse and brain injury. In a review of eleven studies examining alcohol intoxication and history of substance abuse among traumatic brain injury survivors, Corrigan (1995) found that:

Regardless of whether one has a brain injury or not, alcohol and drug habits are difficult to change. However, it is important to note that there are increased challenges and risks for someone who has a brain injury and uses substances as it can also complicate the recovery following a brain injury.

Substance use can also exacerbate problems with balance, walking and talking, and decreases inhibitions. As well, the use of alcohol or drugs can negatively interact with prescribed medications. There is also a significant increase in the risk of sustaining another brain injury.

Adjusting to life after brain injury can be stressful as survivors may be coping with many losses which may include loss of self, their job, their friends, their community and sometimes their family. Turning to substances is often an attempt by the survivor to make themselves feel better. It becomes a way of coping. So the question becomes what can we do to help someone who has a brain injury and is struggling with their alcohol and substance use? There are no quick and easy answers but we can start by providing education to the individual and their families about the risks and consequences of survivors using substances. Below is a list of resources which service providers, families, and survivors can refer to for more information.

Saskatchewan Treatment Resources

Session 1.   Cycle of Use
Session 2.   Influences of Addiction – Biological
Session 3.   Influences of Addiction – Psychological
Session 4.   Influences of Addiction – Social
Session 5.   Influences of Addiction – Spiritual
Session 6.   Influences of Addiction on Family Members
Session 7.   Post-Acute Withdrawal & Relapse Process
Session 8.   Recovery Process & Supports 

These sessions rotate, and are offered continuously. After completing a set of 8 sessions, participants are encouraged to continue with the group. Continued attendance reinforces the information, and continuing participants can be great supporters to the newcomers.

If you would like more information on the group offered in Prince Albert, please feel free to contact the Sask North ABI Outreach Team at 306-765-6480.

**The Sask North ABI Outreach Team is willing to offer information on their Addictions Group Facilitation Curriculum to professionals interested in offering an ABI addictions support group in their area. Contact the Sask North ABI Outreach Team at 306-765-6480 for information.


Adapting Your Service for Persons with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

If you are professional who is new to working with ABI survivors and/or would like to increase your success with survivors, there are a number of on-line resources that can help you adapt your treatment to better serve this population.

Below are two resources from the Ohio Valley Center for Brain Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation which you may find helpful:




Acquired Brain Injury Partnership Project