Traumatic Brain Injuries, Drugs and Alcohol Could Spell Trouble for Teens and Their Developing Brains

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As Canadians, and as lovers of hockey and other contact sports, we hear a lot about concussions and other traumatic brain injuries. There have been calls for years to ban certain violent aspects of these sports for our younger players, but there is always that risk in hockey, football, soccer and others that someone could suffer a head injury. Now it seems that teenagers who have suffered a concussion or strong head injury, that they may be at a higher risk to abuse drugs in their teen years and in the future. The use of non-prescribed tranquillizers, opioids, cannabis, cocaine and crystal meth were two to four times higher among Ontario high school students who had experienced some sort of traumatic brain injury (also known as a TBI) than their classmates and friends who hadn’t suffered any such injury. The study analyzed data from the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, and found that one in five grade 9 to 12 students reported that they had indeed suffered a TBI at some point. Drugs aside, students that fit into those parameters were also 2.5 times more likely to have smoked cigarettes on a daily basis and were found to have participated in binge drinking as well.

“It’s a really toxic combination when you have the two together,” co-principal researcher Dr. Michael Cusimano said of mixing a head trauma with alcohol or drug use. “And it’s alarming how early this is occurring. This is Grade 9 to Grade 12.” “We know that people who have alcohol or substance use problems don’t recover as well from a brain injury,” said Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “They can’t participate as well in the rehab, and they don’t recover their original abilities as well as people who have not been using drugs and alcohol.”

These findings certainly are troubling, and any danger posed to our youth needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. One of the key issues doctors are focusing on is the potential harm done to the development of teens who are using drugs and have also had a TBI. Healthy brain development is something that needs to be guaranteed to young students as it has the potential to hamper their lives and aspirations. Not to mention, even teens without TBIs that use drugs are already at a higher risk of brain development problems, and when we add in a head injury, things are definitely not going in the teen’s favor when it comes to their brain health and future brain health. There is also the risk that a teen using drugs could end up injuring themselves while using alcohol and drugs as well, allowing the possibility for further TBIs and other bodily harm caused by the effects of drugs on physical performance, balance and judgment. In addition to the other findings in this research, is the worrying factor known as mental health and what researchers are calling potential problematic behavior. Two factors that could have a serious impact on the future of a teen.

As more research is being conducted, it is important that kids and teens that suffer serious head injuries be informed that using drugs and alcohol could have a very serious, and negative, impact on their lives and their futures. If you as a parent or teacher become aware of possible drug use in your child who has suffered a head injury, appropriate steps need to be taken as soon as possible. Consulting with your doctor is very important, as well as potentially seeking other professional help from rehab centers and programs if the child shows signs of dependency.

 

VIA:CBCNEWS

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Sobriety Foundation

Traumatic Brain Injuries, Drugs and Alcohol Could Spell Trouble for Teens and Their Developing Brains

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