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Teens with Traumatic Brain Injury are more likely to Abuse Drugs

Update Date: Nov 26, 2014 06:37 PM EST
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Teenagers who have reported a history with traumatic brain injury (TBI) are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, a new study out of Canada reported.

"Overall, a teen with a history of TBI is at least twice as likely as a classmate who hasn't suffered a brain injury to drink alcohol, use cannabis or abuse other drugs," said study investigator, Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael's Hospital and a researcher with the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science. "But when you look at specific drugs, those rates are often higher."

For this study, Dr. Cusimano and colleagues examined data on 6,383 teens from grades nine to 12. The data was taken from the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS), which was created by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

"These data show us that there are important links between adolescent TBI and substance use," said Dr. Robert Mann, co-principal investigator of the study, senior scientist at CAMH and director of the OSDUHS, reported by the press release. "While we can't yet say which one causes the other, we know this combination of factors is something to watch because it can have a serious negative impact on young people as they develop."

The researchers found that teens with a history of TBI were 3.8 times more likely to have used crystal meth or non-prescribed sedatives when compared to teens that did not suffer from TBI. Teens who dealt with TBI were 2.8 times more likely to use Ecstasy, 2.7 times more likely to use non-prescribed opioids painkillers, 2.6 times more likely to use hallucinogens. Their likelihood of using cocaine, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and non-prescribed ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) medications increased by 2.5 times, 2.5 times and 2.1 times, respectively.

Dr. Mann, added, "In terms of our research, the next step is to get a better understanding of the direction of these behaviours and to hopefully pinpoint when and how this relationship starts."

TBI was defined as any hit to the head that resulted in a lost of consciousness for at least five minutes. Any blow to the head that led to hospitalization was also grouped under TBI.

The study was published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.

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