February 26, 2020
“People with juvenile head injuries are already at risk for memory problems, difficulty concentrating, poor learning, and reduced impulse control. If we can prevent alcohol misuse, chances for a good life are much better… There is some evidence that if you have a brain injury, you’re more likely to drink.”
~ Dr. Zachary Weil, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Ohio State University
A 2015 study found that girls who suffer closed-head brain injuries such as concussions are at a greater risk for alcohol abuse later in life. Of special relevance, they also are more likely to make an association between between drinking, reward, and pleasure.
However, this injury-alcohol abuse relationship is not seen among males.
The study, which was conducted by Ohio State University researchers and published in the Journal of Neurotrauma, represents the first time that researchers have categorized the time of that initial injury and the different outcome between the sexes.
During the experiment, OSU researchers gave 21-day-old mice a concussive brain injury. The mice, which were the equivalent of 6-to-12 years old in humans, were then given a choice in drinks— plain water or water containing alcohol. Over the course of the experiment, the amount of alcohol was gradually increased.
Female mice with brain injuries drank the alcohol solution far more often than non-injured control mice. In fact, they spent about 65% of their time in the chamber with access to alcohol.
No significant difference was found between the two groups of male mice.
Dr. Weil said, “We had proven to ourselves that there is something about the way reward and pleasure is processed in these animals with regard to alcohol.”
The study suggests implications that are particularly worrisome, because there are two segments of the American female population where the rate of traumatic brain injury is increasing – among seniors and among YOUNG WOMEN.
“…this effect is not set in stone at the time of injury. There are ways to intervene… It requires sustained treatment and rehabilitation and educational support.”
~ Dr. Zachary Weil
When the brain-injured and alcohol-abusing female mice were put in an “enriched environment” – one that had options for diversion, such as toys and exercise apparatus like running wheels, tunnels, and bigger cages – the increased drinking stopped.
Even more encouraging, the axon damage in the female mice’s brains decreased by 40%, compared to those mice that were housed without these extra diversions. Axons are thin, elongated nerve cell extensions.
Dr. Weil concluded that females who experience head injuries should receive special aftercare, including positive stimulation. “The best therapy for a childhood brain injury is everybody getting great medical care and rehabilitation, regardless of socioeconomic status,” he said.
“People with juvenile head injuries are already at risk for memory problems, difficulty concentrating, poor learning, and reduced impulse control. If we can prevent alcohol misuse, chances for a good life are much better.”
Among adolescent girls, participation in athletics is one of the leading causes of head injuries. In fact, in gender-matched spots such as soccer and basketball, girls are more likely to suffer concussions than boys. For example, among basketball players, concussions account for less than 9% of boys’ injuries. Among girls, however, over 25% of injuries are due to concussions.
And while the rate of concussions among football players is just under 25%, it’s almost 35% among girl soccer players.
There’s no doubting the positives of participating in sports. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, girls involved in team athletics earn better grades, enjoy better self-confidence, and make more money as adults than their non-competing peers.
But what this does mean that if you have a daughter who suffers a head injury, you should make an extra effort afterwards to guard against the possibility of alcohol abuse.
And if your family is already being impacted by problematic drinking, your best resource to get the help and support you need is Teensavers, a youth-focused alcohol rehab program in Orange County, California. Since 1978, Teensavers has provided comprehensive treatment to teens and families in crisis because of addictive or behavioral disorders.
To get started NOW, contact Teensavers TODAY.
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