Substance use can affect your judgment, vision, and coordination. In fact, parts of the brain responsible for these functions are among the first negatively impacted by alcohol and other drug use. Because of this, people who use these substances are more likely to get hurt than people who don't. And as with any injury, it could affect you for the rest of your life.
There are two ways people who use alcohol or other drugs are at greater risk for injury. First, they are more likely to get hurt because of how their judgment, vision, and coordination are impacted. Second, in the same situation, people who are impaired due to alcohol or other drug use are more likely to be hurt more seriously than if they hadn’t been using these substances.
An injury may be harder to diagnose when a person has been using substances. For example, slurred speech or poor memory from drinking alcohol can look like the symptoms of a serious head injury. This can make it difficult for health care providers to determine the extent of a person’s injuries.
Not everyone who uses alcohol or other drugs sustains an injury or gets hurt, but for some people, repeated injuries can be one of the signs that their substance use has become a problem. Sometimes family, friends, a family doctor, or emergency department staff will notice a relationship between a person's injuries and their use of alcohol or other drugs. They may ask the injured person about their use, and/or encourage that person to get treatment for their substance use.
Injuries caused by violence are the most common type of injury seen when alcohol is involved. Alcohol affects how your brain works, impairing your judgement. For some, alcohol can increase aggressive behavior. Others may be more likely to be victims of violence.
Studies show that between 35 and 50 percent of people in emergency rooms with a traumatic brain injury had a history of alcohol or other drug use. Young, unmarried men are at the highest risk of a brain injury and also the most likely to have problematic use of alcohol and other drugs. People who use alcohol or other drugs after a brain injury may not recover as fast or as well those who didn’t use while they recovered.
Current as of: October 3, 2022
Author: Addiction & Mental Health, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.