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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No Miracle “Cures” — The Journey Of Overcoming Brain Injury

In The Nature Of Head Injury, an article published in the book Traumatic Brain Injury and Vocational Rehabilitation, Thomas Kay, Ph.D. and Muriel Lezak, Ph.D, attempt to debunk the most common myths surrounding brain injury.

One of the myths dispelled in the article is known as “The Lourdes Effect.”

The reference is to the town in France (Lourdes) where miraculous cures of illness are reputed to take place. There are many families who firmly believe that some “miracle” will occur after brain injury and return their loved one to normalcy (recovery).

The truth is, the journey towards overcoming brain injury has no shortcuts. There is no miracle “cure”.

One of the biggest issues with “The Lourdes Effect”, is that it compels victims and families alike to seek this miracle — often, at the cost of overlooking professionals and other people who could be of great help, in the search of results that are unrealistic.

The solution lies not in finding the right “cure”, but in helping patients and families become aware of and accepting the limitations and developing new goals and expectations.

In trying to help our loved ones overcome their injury, we must keep realistic expectations — the journey is in helping them have the best quality of life possible.


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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Redefining “Recovery” For Brain Injury Victims

In The Nature Of Head Injury, an article published in the book Traumatic Brain Injury and Vocational Rehabilitation, by The Research and Training Center at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Thomas Kay, Ph.D. and Muriel Lezak, Ph.D,, try to demystify some of the common “myths” surrounding brain injury.

In the first of ten myths debunked by the article, Kay and Lezak advise against speaking of “recovery” — in the sense of how one would recover from a broken bone — in relation to brain injury.

When commonplace notion of recovery is applied to head injury, however, considerable harm can be done. Almost never does a patient “recover;” the residual deficits are usually significant and permanent. The continual expectation of recovery can lead clients and families into denial, frustration, disappointment, and even worse, extremely unrealistic expectations and planning.

When the word “recovery” comes into play, it can give families and loved ones of the injured a false sense that things will go back to the way they were before. This completely ignores, and “sweeps under the rug”, the harsh reality that, more often than not, overcoming brain injury is simply learning a new way of life. It can cause tension, as those close to the injured person become frustrated and confused as to why their loved one is not “back to normal yet”.

Moreover, unrealistic expectations about recovery can affect the injured person, who might struggle to accept the new limitations their injury places on them — halting the very important process of learning how to live with these limitations, and maybe even use them to some advantage.

Moreover, the successful rehabilitation of the head injured person cannot take place until they and their family are aware of the new limitations, accept them, and formulate new goals based on changed expectations.

Rehabilitation, not recovery, seems to be a more fitting word to describe the process. It sets more realistic expectations for what our loved one will be able to accomplish, and just how much of their “old self” we can expect to see emerging. It also better prepares us to rebuild a relationship with a brain injured person.

Suffering a brain injury should not be seen as the end of a person’s previous life goals, and as a challenge to “get back to normal” — which is what words like “recovery” can make us think of. Instead, it should be seen as a challenge to look at life in a new way, and set new goals. It should not be seen as the “destruction” of the injured’s previous hopes and dreams, but the chance to create new ones.


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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