DCoE Blog

  • DVBIC Podcast Looks at Substance Use after TBI
    Bottle of liquor.
    Photo courtesy of II Marine Expeditionary Force

    Army Capt. Daniel Hines knew something was wrong with his friend. Normally a model soldier and enthusiastic recruiter for the Army, the friend was now complaining of burnout, acting irritable and getting into bar fights.

    “If there hadn’t been an intervention, I believe he would have just spiraled out of control,” Hines said. “He would have been arrested; he would have ruined that stellar career he had.”

    Hines’ friend had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) following several blast exposures. He began struggling with TBI and substance abuse. This dangerous combination was the focus of a recent episode of The TBI Family, a podcast series by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC).

  • Celebrate Good Times! No Luck, Charms or Alcohol Required
    DoD photo by Cpl. Khoa Pelczar

    Unless you’ve been hiding under the Blarney Stone, you’ve seen the shamrocks — St. Patrick’s Day is upon us. In America, many adults celebrate the holiday with Irish jigs, witty toasts — and a lot of alcohol. But, if you are coping with posttraumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury (TBI) you may want to pass up that pint of green beer.

    Many trauma survivors use alcohol to relieve pain and other symptoms, but the relationship between combat stress and substance use is counterproductive and can be dangerous. And drinking alcohol with a TBI can complicate your injury or delay recovery.

  • Seek Help Early for Substance Abuse Following TBI
    Silhouette of man drinking a shot with other shots lined up in front of him
    U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarvie Z. Wallace

    Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and substance use disorder share many symptoms, and one condition may often complicate the other. Experts from the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) discussed the problems service members can face when the two conditions intersect during a webinar hosted by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

    Research shows that substance misuse is responsible for 37-50 percent of all TBIs. The majority of individuals who experience a TBI have a history of substance misuse, which often continues after the injury. In addition, a TBI itself can lead to substance misuse, said Lars Hungerford, a senior clinical research director for DVBIC.

    “TBI is actually a risk factor for binge drinking, even after controlling for PTSD and demographic factors,” Hungerford said.

    Substance misuse, particularly alcohol use, can complicate TBI in several ways:

    • Increased likelihood of another TBI. That’s because substance misuse can impair balance, coordination and judgment.
    • Lowered seizure threshold. TBI may increase the risk of seizure from drinking, and alcohol can impede anti-seizure medications.
    • Delayed or halted brain recovery. Alcohol can cause inflammation of the brain, which inhibits its ability to heal.
  • To Drink or Not to Drink: Have a Plan
    U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Jiang

    Parties and special occasions usually involve games, music and alcoholic beverages. They are times of festivity and fun. For someone concerned about alcohol intake or battling substance abuse, social events may seem threatening. But it is possible to participate in activities that include alcohol.

    Get the Facts about Risky Drinking

    The first step to understanding your alcohol limits is to know the facts, signs and symptoms about alcohol abuse. The Deployment Health Clinical Center gives examples of alcohol misuse and facts about risky driving:

    • Drinking more or for a longer time than you intend
    • Continuing to drink even though it makes you feel depressed or anxious
    • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when you don’t drink
  • Alcohol Use, PTSD among Combat Servicewomen
    woman in battle dress fatigues briefing service men and women
    U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amy M. Ressler

    Women didn’t officially serve in ground combat positions until 2013. However, many of them did their jobs in real-time combat settings, often under direct fire. Despite this, research on how deployment affects women is limited. Scientists discussed the need for more research and other post-deployment concerns that affect female service members during a webinar hosted by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

    Where’s the Data?

    Almost half of female service members eligible for care through the Defense Health Agency do not use it. This lack of use makes it harder to gather data on their post-combat experiences. Also, most of the post-deployment studies on PTSD and substance use disorder occurred before women openly served in combat. This means most deployment-related studies do not accurately reflect the experiences of women.

  • How to Stop Using Substances to Relax
    Hand holding a mug of beer
    U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Rebekka Heite

    Having a glass of wine or beer is a common way to relax at the end of a day or week. But alcohol or other mood-enhancing substances can be an unhealthy and ineffective way to cope with bigger issues, as this post from Real Warriors explains.

    Substance misuse is a common concern facing service members, veterans and civilians. Substances like alcohol, tobacco and drugs may be used as a way to cope with stress related to combat, reintegration or a psychological health concern. Although using substances may feel like a way to unwind or give you relief, their misuse can have a lasting, serious impact on your life. These impacts can include harm to your health and relationships. They can also lead to work troubles, financial or legal difficulties, or even death.

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