Substance Abuse and Brain Injury

If you or someone you love has a brain injury, learning about the effects of substance use with brain injury is an important first step toward improving the chances for recovery. Many people with brain injury have problems with the use of alcohol or other drugs prior to their injuries (

Substance abuse and addiction to drugs and alcohol can be intertwined with the effects of a brain injury. Being under the influence of substances that impair judgment, motor functions, and memory increases the likelihood of being injury. The symptoms of a brain injury also increase the chances of developing a substance abuse disorder.

Individuals with a brain injury are 11 times more likely to die of an overdose than people without a brain injury.


Opioids are depressants, meaning the drug slows down your breathing and heart rate. When this happens, an individual’s brain can either not get enough oxygen or get none at all. This can cause an acquired brain injury and can cause severe brain damage within only 3-5 minutes.

Taking opioids can also increase the risk of sustaining a traumatic brain injury. Taking opioids, even if they are prescribed, can cause physical side effects that can impair your judgment, motor functions, and memory.

Common symptoms of a brain injury such as headaches, neck pain, and muscle tension care often treated by doctors using medication. If the pain is severe enough, doctors may prescribe stronger medications like opioids. These are very effective at relieving pain, and can lead to possible over-use or addiction.

Signs of an Overdose

One way to prevent overdose is to know what they look like and what to do.

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If you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately. If you have a loved one struggling with addiction, consider taking Narcan training if you are within the Virginia Standing Order as an authorized dispenser. You can learn more about that through your Local Health Department or Community Services Board.

The Brain Injury Association of Virginia can help you better understand brain injury and consult with you about your personal situation. We can direct you to services you might need in your area.

Our services are confidential and free.

Get in touch today: call us at 1-800-444-6443, or explore the resources available on our website,