Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery: Drinking Alcohol Helps

Traumatic brain injury recovery is improved if patients have been drinking when injured. The prognosis is better when there is alcohol in the blood. Alcohol reduces dangerous brain swelling.

This was seen at a medical center. Some patients had been drinking alcohol in moderation before having a traumatic brain injury. They were 24% less likely to die than were those who had not been drinking.

Traumatic Brain Injury RecoveryDoctors said alcohol might become part of emergency treatment for traumatic brain injury recovery. If some patients lack enough alcohol in their blood, it may be given to them.1

A different study had over 38,000 patients with traumatic brain injuries. Patients who had been drinking when injured were much more likely to survive. The link between alcohol and survival remained after adjusting for injury severity, age, and other factors.2

Another study examined all patients who were hospitalized for, or died from, a traumatic brain injury during a one-year period. ‘Contrary to expectations, injury severity and hospital mortality were inversely related to BAC level, controlling for other predictors.’3 That is, as blood alcohol concentration increased, deaths in the hospital went down.

Traumatic brain injury is serious.

  •  Traumatic brain injury is involved in about 30% of all injury deaths in the US.
  • About 2,500,000 million people in the country have a traumatic brain injury every year.
  • Everyone is at risk for a traumatic brain injury. It’s especially high for children and older adults.
  • Traumatic brain injury recovery varies widely. Some have problems for only a few days. Others suffer  disabilities for the rest of their lives.
The effects of traumatic brain injury can include
  • Poor memory,
  • Problems thinking.
  • Poor control of movement.
  • Poor vision or hearing.
  • Disrupted emotional functioning.  (Depression, personality changes, anxiety, etc.)

These problems harm the victims. But they can also have lasting impacts on families.

The chance of  traumatic brain injury recovery is increased when patients have been drinking when injured.


  • 1. Tien, H. C. N., et al. Association between alcohol and mortality in patients with severe traumatic head injury. Arch Surg., 2006, 141, 1185-1191.
  • 2. Salim, A., et al. Alcohol and Traumatic Brain Injury Arch Surg., 2009, 144(9), 865-871.
  • 3. Kraus, J.F., et al. Blood alcohol tests, prevalence of involvement, and outcomes following brain injury. Am J Pub Hlth., 1989, 79(3), 294-299.