Following Brain Injury Awareness Week

Did you know that on of the lesser-known causes of brain injury is illegal drugs?



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The hospital, which is based in Putney was keen to address this issue after reading the 'Wandsworth Survey of Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Schoolchildren'. This was conducted for Wandsworth Drug Action Team by Alpha Research and published last year. The study found that the prevalence of drug taking is significantly higher amongst pupils in Wandsworth schools than the national average, though drug awareness levels are similar to those recorded nationally.

As part of the campaign, the hospital has sent information to local secondary schools and asked them to run debates allowing pupils to examine their own attitudes to drug use and knowledge of potential consequences. Hospital staff will also visit shopping centres in Wimbledon, Wandsworth and Putney to speak to people about the work of the hospital and highlight the potential effects of drug use on the brain.

Although there is little statistical information on the incidence of brain injury as a result of drug use, a snapshot of the hospital's own patients indicate that this is a hidden cause.

Chloë Hayward, Head of Communications said: "There have been studies looking at the link, but as drugs may be the secondary cause of injury it is a difficult area to investigate. Many patients admitted to the Royal Hospital have been involved in traffic accidents or falls, or perhaps suffered a stroke or lack of oxygen to the brain because of a heart attack. We discovered that for a number of these patients, drug use had been a factor in the injury."

One such patient is Gurcharn. He had a massive stroke after taking cocaine, which left him severely disabled. Our staff helped him learn to communicate and walk again. He made excellent progress with his rehabilitation and began to focus on going home. He said: "I knew taking drugs was bad news but never thought anything would happen to me. I've made a good recovery since my stroke and have had the chance to rebuild my life. I hope my experience makes others think about the choices they're making, because they might not
be as lucky as me."

Drugs are just one of the many causes of severe brain injury. Whatever the reason for their injury or illness the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability provides rehabilitation and care for severely disabled people, focusing on giving back their independence. It is not part of the NHS and relies on
donations to continue its work.


January 17, 2005