Friday, March 1, 2013

Mild TBI May Predispose Military Patients to Addiction

Military personnel with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) are at increased risk for certain addiction-related disorders, according to a study published online February 22 in AJP in Advance that evaluated 5,065 active-duty airmen who met criteria for mild TBI. All participants were on active duty for at least 180 days between October 1, 2001, and September 30, 2008.  Electronic personnel data were obtained from the Defense Manpower Data Center, which maintains demographic and military electronic records for all U.S. service personnel. Outpatient electronic medical record data were obtained from the Military Health System, which is maintained by TRICARE.

The study's findings suggest an increased risk for alcohol dependence, nondependent abuse of drugs or alcohol, and nicotine dependence during the first 30 days following mild TBI and a risk thereafter for alcohol dependence for at least six months after injury.

The findings may have a significant effect on how military personnel with mild TBI are screened and monitored: "When considered against the existing literature, our results suggest that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration approach to addiction-related disorders in TBI should be revised," wrote the researchers, who recommended that screening for addiction-related disorders should be part of routine care for mild TBI and might be most effective during the first 30 days post-mild TBI, with repeat alcohol screening thereafter for at least six months following the injury.

The search for biomarkers that would allow quick and accurate analysis of TBI on the battlefield looks promising. Read more in Psychiatric News here.

(Image Timothy R. Nichols/


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