Brain Injury And Drugs — Myths And Questions

When it comes to medicine, and helping people heal, many have strong opinions on the use of drugs. In The Nature Of Head Injury is an article published in Traumatic Brain Injury and Vocational Rehabilitation, where Thomas Kay, Ph.D. and Muriel Lezak, Ph.D, attempt to debunk some myths regarding using drugs to help those who have brain injury.

Many people believe that drugs should be avoided, at all costs, when dealing with brain injury — even if it means a lower quality of life for the victim.

This myth evolved from a basic truth: Many drugs given to brain injured persons have undesirable cognitive side effects and cause more harm than good.

While it is true that brain injury can change how the brain will respond to drugs — and, thus, the effects they will have on the patient — we should note that, in certain cases, the benefits might well outweigh the disadvantages.

This is not say, however, that everything can be “fixed” with drugs — miracle “cures” for brain injury are a myth. While they might help alleviate some of the suffering, and aid in making the victim more stable, they are also not the answer to every question.

Nevertheless, intelligent pharmacology instituted by someone who understands how the damaged brain reacts to drugs can be, when used in moderation, very helpful. Certain seizure medications have fewer cognitive side effects. Drugs that selectively block or enhance very specific neurotransmitter systems have the potential to decrease anxiety, lift depression, and perhaps (although this is still controversial) even enhance certain cognitive functions such as focused attention and memory. Drugs are dangerous, but not Satans.

The reality is, life after brain injury is a journey. Part of that journey is tailoring therapy and care to the needs of the injured — professionals, families, and victims should all collaborate on deciding what the best course of action is.


This post is a part of the Debunking Ten Myths Of “Recovery” series. If you are interested in reading the rest of the series, you can view the rest of the posts on the Ten Recovery Myths tag.

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