Traumatic Brain Injury in Teens May Lead to Substance Abuse

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The difference in effects of traumatic brain injury on male and female adolescents is important in understanding risk factors and tailoring prevention efforts, new research indicates. The study was published online in PLOS One.

Gabriela Ilie, MD, of the division of neurosurgery and injury prevention research office at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and colleagues surveyed 9,288 Ontario students in 7th through 12th grade on whether they have experienced traumatic brain injury (TBI) along with 13 psychological health correlates including cigarette smoking, suicide ideation, bullying, cannabis use, and binge drinking.

Reports of lifetime TBI, as defined as a hit or blow to the head that resulted in a 5-minutes loss of consciousness or at least one overnight hospitalization due to associated symptoms, were more common in males than females (23.1%, 95% CI: 20.5, 25.8 vs. 17.1%, 95% CI: 14.7, 19.8). The researchers found that sex moderated the relationship between TBI and cigarette smoking, while sex and age jointly moderated the relationship between lifetime TBI and daily smoking, alcohol abuse, and physical injuries.

In late adolescents with TBI, males showed an elevated rate of daily smoking and injuries compared to relative females, who displayed an elevated rate of past-year drinking. “Adolescent males and females who reported lifetime TBI also reported past year concurrent daily smoking, drinking, binge drinking, using cannabis, drug use problems, cyberbullying, bullying others, poor current marks in school, and being treated for physical injuries, compared to their peers who did not report a TBI,” the researchers wrote.

The results, the researchers said, could indicate that the adverse correlates are used as a type of coping mechanism to deal with the effects of TBI.

Teen smoking
Traumatic Brain Injury in Adolescents May Lead to Substance Abuse

This study aims to establish whether age and sex moderate the influence of other traumatic brain injury psychological health correlates.

Gabriela Ilie, MD, of the division of neurosurgery and injury prevention research office at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, and colleagues assessed whether either sex, or sex and age both moderate the association between traumatic brain injury and various psychological health traumatic brain injury associates—specifically, academic performance, mental health, substance use, bullying, suicide, and physical injuries. Results have important implications for more tailored injury prevention efforts.

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