Overdose survivors face challenges of brain injury

About two and a half years ago, Joseph Hartman overdosed on cocaine.

Dr. Brian Greenwald says that’s when Hartman’s brain likely suffered the trauma that sent him to JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in December 2016. Greenwald, who serves as medical director of the Center for Head Injuries at the institute, says he’s seeing an increase of patients who survive an opioid overdose but suffer brain trauma because of a lack of oxygen to the brain during that overdose.

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, “those with a prior history of substance misuse before their brain injury are 10 times more likely to resume past behavior,” so the organization is stressing the importance of treating both brain injury and addiction together.

Greenwald says many opioid overdose survivors may be suffering in silence and recommends anyone with symptoms like memory loss, loss of full motor skills and similar symptoms get an evaluation from a brain injury specialist.