Avoid Addiction & Crimes

Substance abuse can lead to a brain injury, particularly in the case of opioids or impairment from alcohol and other drugs. It can also occur after a brain injury, creating multiple problems for the person living with a brain injury. Addiction itself is a very complicated issue, and brain injury is also very complex with many variables. Therefore, a combination of the two can bring forth a number of challenges.

Studies have shown that 10-20 percent of all brain injury survivors will develop some sort of Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Studies have also shown there is a strong correlation between substance abuse and brain injury. The part of the brain that causes addiction is called the mesolimbic dopamine pathway. It is sometimes called the reward circuit of the brain. This makes sense when thinking of distressed brain injury survivors seeking relief.

Also, brain injury is associated with increased criminal behavior and may represent a risk factor for offending. However, early substance use is a mediating factor for those injured early in life. Brain injury appears to be associated with earlier age of incarceration, increased risk of violence, and more convictions. Neurological abnormalities are common in offenders. Brain functions in areas important for social functioning, such as impulse control and empathy, appear compromised, which may explain the cause.


Regardless of whether one has a brain injury or not, alcohol and drug habits are difficult to change. However, it is important to note that there are increased challenges and risks for someone who has a brain injury and uses substances as it can also complicate the recovery following a brain injury. Substance use can also exacerbate problems with balance, walking and talking, and decreases inhibitions. The use of alcohol or other drugs can negatively interact with prescribed medications. There is also a significant increase in the risk of sustaining another brain injury. Adjusting to life after brain injury can be stressful to survivors, including coping with many losses which may include loss of self, job, friends, community and sometimes family. Turning to substances is often an attempt by the survivor to feel better. It becomes a way of coping. Helping those with brain injury to steer away from substance use and addiction may not be an easy task, but we all know that prevention is the best medicine.


Brain injury can have a major impact on the lives of people who experience it. But what about society as a whole? Does CFBI have a lasting effect on everyone, even those who aren’t injured? Some evidence suggests that there’s a relationship between brain injury and the likelihood that someone will engage in criminal behavior. Brain damage in childhood and early adulthood may increase the likelihood of criminal behavior. This damage typically lowers inhibitions or emotional control, affecting the way we respond to triggers in our environment. Anger is an important clinical problem after brain injury. As many as one-third of CFBI experience symptoms, ranging from irritability to aggressive outbursts, that are identified as new or worse since the injury. In an effort to help and increase awareness, a person with a brain injury can carry a survivor wallet card to help avoid misunderstandings with law enforcement, first responders, and others. The wallet card includes contact information, an emergency contact, and possible symptoms of brain injury.