Substance use is common both prior to and following a traumatic brain injury, often playing a role in the cause of injury. Estimates range from 44 – 79% of individuals having a premorbid history of alcohol abuse, and 21 – 40% have a history of illicit drug abuse1. Rates of use are much higher in individuals with an injury than in the general population2. Intoxication at the time of injury is also related to poorer recovery. Substance use is likely to complicate the recovery process and may reduce recovery of independent functioning. Additionally, as many as 50-60% of individuals with a TBI have alcohol and/or other drug problems following their injury3. There is often a period of abstinence from substances during the initial recovery period, which includes hospitalization and a brief period of time post-discharge. However, individuals often return to premorbid levels of substance use or even an increased level of use4.


  1. Kolakowsky-Hayner, S., Gourley, E., Kreutzer, J., Marwitz, J., Meade, M., & D. Cifu (2002). Post-injury substance abuse among persons with brain injury and persons with spinal cord injury, Brain Injury, 16, 583–592.
  2. West, S. (2011). Substance use among persons with traumatic brain injury: A review. NeuroRehabilitation, 29, 1-8.
  3. Taylor, L., Kreutzer, J., Demmand, S., & M. Meade (2003). Traumatic brain injury and substance abuse: a review and analysis of the literature, Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 13, 165–188.
  4. Corrigan, J. (1995). Substance abuse as a mediating factor in outcome from traumatic brain injury, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 76, 302–309.