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Alcohol and Substance Use

Alcohol and Substance Use

Alcohol and Substance Use 2017-11-20T17:35:50+00:00

It is important to understand the health impacts of using alcohol and substances will healing from a brain injury. Drugs and alcohol can have damaging effects on the brain. In this section you will learn about:

The Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on Your Brain

  • Following a brain injury brain cells are lost and the remaining cells have to work harder to do the same activities as before your injury
  • If the remaining cells are compromised by substances they are not able to take over duties of the dead cells
  • Skills that could be regained are lost to you
  • Even without a brain injury, substances impair functioning in these areas
  • If balance and walking are further impaired this will put you at greater risk of falling and additional injury
  • Disinhibition is a common problem as a result of brain injury and substance abuse
  • Not being able to control what you say or do can lead to problems such as increased risk taking, arguments and other socially inappropriate behaviour
  • It will be hard for you to use strategies to control your behaviour when under the influence of substances
  • You may have to learn new skills, or relearn old ones, following a brain injury
  • Substances interfere with the ability to think and learn new information
  • There are less brain cells after your brain injury, the substances you take go to fewer cells, thereby reducing your ability to function even more
  • You become intoxicated more quickly and the effect is greater
  • Substances also interfere with the effectiveness of prescribed medications
  • Depression is common following a brain injury
  • Alcohol is a depressant
  • Your mood will be worsened and even harder to cope with
  • You have an increased risk of seizure following a brain injury and may be taking seizure medication
  • Substances prevent medications from doing their job, increasing your risk of seizure even more
  • Even if you are at low risk for seizure, substances will increase your risk of seizure
  • If you have difficulty thinking clearly, walking smoothly or reacting quickly you are at greater risk for another injury
  • Second injuries cause more harm than the initial injury
  • The destruction of more brain cells after a 2nd injury will leave even fewer cells to do the same jobs, and even more abilities will be lost

Is your substance use a problem?

  • Are you using substances to cope with being lonely, tired, bored and depressed?

  • Are you using substances for pain and sleep problems?

  • Have you always used substances, even before your injury?

  • Do all your supports drink?

  • Have you used substances every night this week?

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Getting help is the next step

Here are some resources – 12 step groups – where you can get help:

Alcoholics Anonymous

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Narcotics Anonymous

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Cocaine Anonymous

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Crystal Meth Anonymous

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Gamblers Anonymous

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Sex Addicts Anonymous

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Sexaholics Anonymous

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Codependents Anonymous

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Other Supports and Services

LifeRing Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery is an abstinence-based, worldwide network of individuals seeking to live in recovery from addiction to alcohol or to other non-medically indicated drugs.

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SMART Recovery

SMART is a free self-help program for recovery from addictive behaviour.

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Alcohol & Drug Information and Referral Service:

BC:604-660-9382 or
Toll Free: 1-800-663-1441

24 hours, 7 days a week.

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Reducing the Risks of Alcohol Use

If you decide you want to use alcohol you may find the following suggestions useful in reducing the risks:

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  • Keep track of how much you drink.  Know the quantity of alcohol in your drink.

  • Stay alert to prevent accidents or falls.  If you have had nothing to drink for a number of weeks, or your medications have changed, be particularly careful: you may become impaired by a much smaller amount of alcohol than before.

  • Don’t use alcohol on a daily basis.  Drinking daily gradually builds up your body’s resistance to alcohol, which can lead to heavier use.

  • As an alternative to alcoholic drinks, try alcohol-free or low-alcohol beer or wine.

  • Remember to eat when you are drinking.

  • Don’t use alcohol as a medication for pain or sleep disturbance.

  • Don’t use it to cope with problems or worries.  Talk to your doctor or a counsellor for help with these concerns.

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