Alcohol and Drug Use Before and During the First Year After Traumatic Brain Injury

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To compare individuals with mild and moderate/severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) on alcohol and drug use and substance use disorders before and in the first year post-TBI; to explore sociodemographic and injury-related variables associated with substance use disorders.


A total of 225 adults hospitalized in a level I trauma center after TBI.


Observational cohort study with retrospective (pre-TBI) and prospective (4, 8, and 12 months post-TBI) assessments.

Main measures:

Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV).


The percentage of participants using alcohol or drug declined shortly after the injury (4 months) but increased closer to preinjury levels by the end of the first year. Post-TBI alcohol use was higher after mild than moderate/severe TBI, but drug use was similar. About 11% of participants met criteria for a substance use disorder in the first year after TBI. Younger age, not being in a relationship, and suspected substance intoxication at the time of TBI were associated with the presence of a post-TBI substance use disorder.


Individuals with milder injuries return to alcohol use earlier than those with more severe injuries. Given that substance use may alter recovery, preventive recommendations and systematic follow-ups are warranted regardless of injury severity and access to rehabilitation.

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