Your experiences of alcohol and brain injury - Headway


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Your experiences of alcohol and brain injury


As people recover after brain injury, many will want to return to their old social life.

For some people this will mean meeting friends at the pub for a pint, or attending parties where the drinks are flowing.

But after brain injury, people's tolerance of alcohol is lowered, and the effects of their brain injury can be exacerbated.

We want to hear from brain injury survivors about how their approach to drinking and the way they socialise has changed after brain injury.

Your experiences will help us put together a factsheet and article on the subject.

Please, tell us about your experiences in the comments below - and thank you as always for your support!

34 Replies

I think the guy from the TV show 'friends' summed it up well when he said life doesn't make much sense till you have that first drink.

This was my experience with alcohol. Without being able to rationalise it so well.

I've been sober for five years.

God willing, it will be a lifetime commitment.

Hi, my experience is now its a no no. Just 1 alcoholic drink does awful things to my brain, like ive drunk way too much and you get that spaced out feeling, like you are not really in this world.

The other awful thing is, my husband and i no longer go out as we used to, the pubs are way too noisy and we cant communicate.

Parties and get togethers I can only tolerate for about 2 hours max after that i cant stay focussed on a conversation not good.


I just wouldn't take the risk as I value my energies and brain health too much. I haven't had an alcoholic drink since my brain popped. I'm not a pub/restaurant type as I'm easily overwhelmed and intolerant of noise and throngs. I'm more sociable over coffee/tea as by 8 pm' ish I'm bushed and ready for bed!


Hola :)

I've had the every now and then beer, but I don't drink anymore or smoke for almost 10 years so I find other ways to enjoy myself now. So I'm not very useful on this subject.

Drinking No Problem. Problem is if emotions are awakened, thoughts, triggers of sad occasions go free wheeling to far...


I'm "allowed" one drink a day now but I've been advised that it reduces the seizure threshold. I risk a seizure if I drink.... And value my life and my driving licence too much to think of having more.

So, if I'm out with friends then I'll either offer to drive (and sometimes want to anyway, especially if I may want to go home earlier), or only stay for one drink. Occasionally I may split my one drink over two pints of shandy. And I always ask for a sip of the chosen wine... If I'm having only one, I want to make sure it's nice!

I sometimes have a non alcoholic beer shandy so I feel like I am having a pint and have discovered things like elderflower cordial with soda.

Nothing wrong with ordering a fancy coffee or mocktail either.

I take brain injured seizures and have been on medication for YEARS inow prefer being teetotal and was told by the brain injury rehabilitation unit that even x1 or x2 beers could counteract my post traumatic anti epeliptic seizure drugs and make me choke on my tounge in my zzzz , SACK THAT it's NOT WORTH it now and I prefer to be teetotal no hangovers/drooth/ a day wasted so my brain injurys caused me GOOD no drink and to HECK with EVEN WORSER! BIG MASSIVE time!

My 20yr old son is 6 months post TBI. He is left with damage to occipital lobe, right optic nerve so had left peripheral scotoma. He has returned to his social life & loves to go out every weekend to the clubs. He drinks as he did before. He was told to wait 12 months but his recovery was a astounding & quick and he felt it was his choice to be normal.

No excaberated side affects & his brain fatigue much better. His mood is not affected with drinking except being ‘merry’. If anything his near death experience has given him some positives to concentrate on. His cognitive skills are very high & returned to work. Driving is still affected. We are waiting to appeal at 12 months with the support of GP, consultant & opthamolohist as he had adapting amazingly well 🤞🏻

Excluding the bit of sight loss he is going amazing even booked Magaluf holiday 😬

I always worry til he’s tucked up in bed & I have more anxiety as a mum having seen him in a coma 2 weeks & being told by one terrible Dr that she didn’t expect him to wake & his permanent brain damage was at the back & low down so not a good sign! She was duly rollocked by the actual Neurologist who said of course he will wake & only his sight should be affected ! And he was right. What a rollercoaster. Wish I could cut the apron strings again but I am a mess (in fact is is me that drinks too much etc to forget )

Tired mum

1 or 2 drinks feel like 10, hangover for days, not good

sammm2k in reply to musgrave

See my reply below. Makes sense why you feel hungover after a couple. 3x stronger if you have BI


Hi Lynehh👋🏼

could you tell me name of the doctor you meet

I had heard injury ( post concerns as soon

23 years alcohol free here, epilepsy does that to you.

The risk factor of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol put a level of fear in my mind that I'd never known before. I simply stopped and I've never really missed it if I'm honest. The pros far outweigh the cons, for myself at least.

I had my heavy TBI just over 4yrs ago. I drink alcohol again to help me cope with the fact that, although I can never be the same guy I was, my life is unchanged. If I lived in a different place, without people I have drunk alcohol with for the past 30yrs, I wouldn’t drink much. However, you are daily reminded that your brain is damaged so to cope with certain social gatherings alcohol is the only way I can deal with them. I have learnt that I can’t mix it either, drink beer or wine in isolation. Put simply, I would prefer to be a different person experiencing a different life style. That would be a much more simple and enjoyable experience for me. Cheers👍🏻


I find I can't have more than one glass of wine without feeling like I've had too much. The only time I would go out to a pub is if it was to have a meal or for a planned event like a party. I wouldn't go to meet friends just to have a drink/socialise as I can't tolerate too much noise and it makes conversation virtually impossible. It also causes me to become fatigued which can last for many hours.

I have had my tbi since 1998. Yes I do like a glass of wine but it does effect me more than it use to. Since my disability I do not feel comfortable going in to a bar as I may find it hard to use the rest rooms. So my drinking is done in my home. Yes I do fall often after a drink or 3. I realise it affects me badly so I restrict it to just the weekend and put a limit on the number of drinks I have. This is hard work but I do it.😀😀


I was told by the neurologist after my mother suffered her brain injury that alcohol was proven to be 3 x stronger for someone with a BI so we would need to limit my mum, being an alcoholic this has been a trying time & if she asks once to go to the shop, she asks 50 times, but all her emotional blackmail we won't give in to her. I myself had my BI & choose not to drink, so I don't know if it's 3x stronger. Although 2 vodkas would be like drinking 6 so what a cheap night out of I should change my mind lol

Two years after my bi I went on a family holiday. I reduced my pain killers and put up with the pain so as to have a drink.

One sangria ( in my defence it was strong) resulted in me trying to get onto a table to dance and having to be carried back to my hotel.

There I remained for two days. I felt terrible and it put a big downer on the holiday.

On my return I questioned my consultant to be told " what did I expect after a bi ). Apparently they had forgot to warn me.

That was 17 years ago and haven't had a drink since.

If I am honest....And this shocks me.....I do not miss alcohol.


I was born with my BI and so may not be the sort of person you are trying to reach. I don't have that 'I am different now' feeling because I have always been like this. However where alcohol is concerned I think I have always had a reasonably low tolerance. That's not to say I have never overdone it. But a long time before I am drunk both my speech and balance/mobility are affected. In fact I'm bad enough even without a drink! I was recently accused of drink-driving because a do-gooder watched me walk to my car, saw that I struggled to do so in a straight line and reported me to the police! The public in general really do need to become more educated about the effects of BI and invisible disability.

I can drink alcohol as before, in fact I'm sure the state would say I drink too much.

Mild injury here, but I stopped after the injury/accident I wasn’t a heavy drinker to be fair before.

But immediately after I was so tired, wobbly etc, that I just stopped. I still am often tired and wobbly feeling, I didn’t make a conscious decision but I had no desire to have a drink or still don’t.

My tolerance clearly has changed, and can’t just be lack of drinking, I got quite drunk on a slice of cake that my wife brought home from a party.

Teenage me could handle a lot more than a slice of boozy cake! So I’m assuming that I’m much more effected now.

Do I miss it? No it’s just part of me, I still like the smell of home made Sloe Gin, and even make it, but I don’t drink it.

Socially well I was 38 when it happened so pub wasn't a big thing, I did go to the pub with my wife or sometimes others but not often. Did have the odd drink at home, and at parties/friends/Family gatherings.

With all of the above its not been that I don't drink that is the limiter but my tolerance to noise and stimulation which pubs or even parties etc are intensely, so that has changed though I slowly have got better with such things, and plan things better.

But yes clearly my social life has changed.

Everything you say is true. My tolerance for alcohol is very low now but one nice beer now and again is alright. I think personally alcohol is the most worst kind of drug anyway can't believe its legal when it causes some people to go get demons and act really crazy and it actually kills brain cells. So anybody with brain injury is trust me better off without too much alcohol.

Can't socialize as cannot handle crowd's or high noise levels

As for alcohol one is my limit after this the effect is like having 10 and trying to explain slurring, staggering and being incoherent is not because I've had a few to many is impossible makes it worse and then get labeled violent drunk so I avoid socializing pubs, and funeral wakes

Suppose it would be a cheap night out lol

Lewann xx

Ha i can no longer drink or socialize so not a lot i can add to what everyone has already said

Brain has adverse reaction to alcohol ie its like being drunk after just a light beer incomprehensible speech, balance issues out of control so i wont even take a chance on the sherry trifle and as for mixing with other people in a social situations how on earth am i ment to follow anysort of conversation so i only socialize with me, myself and I oh and a bottle of water

Lewann xx

traceyannie in reply to lew-ann

I get where you are, Alcohol has never been a friend to my Husband and now after his injury it makes him verbally aggressive, sexually inappropriate and unstable on his feet.

We often do not go to events because he either fatigues easily or wont go because he is not allowed to drink so concludes that he wont have a good time. I feel out of the loop with friends.

Tracey xxx

I know this isn’t going to be a common thought but I don’t feel any more or less effected by alcohol now than I did before. I’d say people do notice if I’ve had any more now. After my BI I was told not to touch alcohol for 1st year as it increased my chance of having seizures. Now if the reason for not drinking had been anything else I would have probably took the risk as I recovered much faster than expected, but as I did drive before BI and hoped to start driving again it just wasn’t worth risking as I know one seizure would have ment no driving for a year and possibly longer if more seizures happened.

I did have my first bit of alcohol just over a year after BI and was cautious eating before and only having low alcohol % just to make sure I was ok. I was ok and disappointed it didn’t get me drunk any faster. Now I think I’m pretty much same after a drink as I was before which considering a lot can’t drink after BI I can’t really complain. I am normally driving so don’t drink much, but that is nothing to do with my BI.

I stayed sober for 3 months which was hard at the time as all my mates were constantly out in town. When I started drinking again I started with beer and cider instead of spirits to begin with. After a while I started drinking spirits again. Throughout this time I felt really unwell the next day (worse than before the brain injury) but in time it’s eased.

I used to enjoy a drink before my brain surgery and now I cant even have a glass of wine without feeling groggy, more fatigued and my scar seems to feel "tightened". It makes me wonder when or if I will ever be able to feel normal, and socialise and have fun again. So far nothing nice has come from this whole experience. It has ruined my life.

Half a bottle of beer and my head starts to spin but not a drunk giddy/happy spin a vertigo type spin so I stay away from beer nowadays..

Hi there. I didnt touch alcohol for two months after my operation. I had a chronic subdural haematoma. I had a few little drinks 2 months after then my 104 year old aunt died and since then I have had one or two standard (small) wines maybe twice a week. Nowhere near what I used to drink when I was in a high stress job. I now find a small standard wine is about right and I remain in control.

Now that I find I can exist without booze, I may well do that but do enjoy a good wine.

I had Epilepsy when 14 puberty...thought I was safe as God had given me enough to last me a life time ..In early days if I was at airport and felt a seizure coming on I would go "wine quick" 2 glasses and they went the shakes. Not fibbing as I liked a drink also but it seemed to calm me if out in a social place. But slowed up on it as I found I liked it and drink and drugs do not mix. Would rather go without a drink nowdays xxxx SAH4 in 2009 shunt fitted in 2010 remember nothing !! No wine or cigs since xxxx

I’m 35 years old and I had my TBI 10 year ago. I used to love going out and dancing in clubs and socialise. But now I find I get a very big effect of just one pint, because it makes me so tired the next day. When I drink it’s to relax but my behaviour goes a bit silly and out of control. Also my pain killers stop working for my back injury.

I still feel like it’s okay to have one drink though because it makes me relaxed enough to enjoy being out and there being lots of strangers around.

After my first SAH my tolerance was slotot lower so I felt drunker slot quicker(never really been a massive drinker anyway I used to go the pub most weeks seemto be okay in busy crowded environments can get abit much where I have to leave and get abit if quiet I also used to get terrible headaches the next day probs Due to the dehydration that comes along with drinking alcohol in latter years I used to think ist even worth it and tried not to binge drink or drink as much an focused on looking after myself and my health abit more it allowed to drink at the mo as at risk of seizures and it’s just not worth it for mewould love nothing more than a glass of red wine on a cold evening and to be honest this is likely something I’ll stick to quiet 1/2 drinks at home as after my second SAH MY tolerance is likely to be even worse also it’s not worth the feeling the next day the headaches and anxiety

Straight after my hiccup, I carried on drinking regardless. The licensees of my local new me well, and the regulars accepted the mark ll.

Then the pub changed hands, different people started using it, and that was the beginning of the trouble. First the landlady put an arbitrary limit on the amount I could drink, at this point nothing had happened, and she couldn't give a reason.

Next one of the new punter's took a disliking of me, I hadn't even spoken to him. He was big and tough, and he made a point of staring at me, then bumping into me with snide remarks.

One night he ramped up the threat level. He cornered me in the toilet. Now being bigger and stronger I think he expected me to just role over and take the odd slap. Well, although I was unsteady on my feet before a pint, in my previous life I had taught martial arts and professionally taugh control and restraint. My head didn't work too we, but my automatic muscle memory didn't seem to let me down, the look on his face, priceless. But I got the blame, and even though I explained what had happened, the landlady wouldn't change her opinion of me.

I used to think if only I could move somewhere where no one knew me, fresh start. Circumstances facilitated that.

It has been, and still is hard work, 1. I'm a Londoner up north, an outsider, 2. My memory for names and faces is rubbish, I used to carry a note book so I could write the names and prompts, dogs ate that 3. People knew something wasn't quite right, and when I explained about the BI, they just said lier, so another barrier.

I only went to the local working men's club, it was about the distance I could manage, pub's were too far away. I had a couple of harmless face offs, and one potential threat from someone who felt I hadn't shown him his due respect, that ended with a half hour hand shake, where he kept attempting to crush my hand. Throughout I quietly responded to his suggestions, sorry can't repeat them. Every time he tried to crush my hand, I just said if you want to you can try. No facial response. Eventually he let go, with the words I don't want to see you again. So I just said I can't promise that. I could have broken his grip at any point I wanted.

I continued to drink there, until a new medication was added that didn't work too well with alcohol, well a mouthful nearly put me on the floor.

Now I can't be bothered to walk there, that was the closest I had to a social life, although people would nod to say hello, it was only a very limited few that chatted regularly. I miss the beer and a chat sometimes, and make the effort, but I can never guarantee the few will be there, so I can spend a couple of hours staring into my pint and say nothing. And I have to omit certain meds if I go out.

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