Objective: Review the literature to evaluate the evidence for effective treatment to mitigate substance misuse and substance use disorders (SUD) following traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Design: Systematic review.
Data source: Scopus.
Study eligibility criteria: A study was considered eligible for review if (a) the intended population specifically included persons with TBI; (b) the experimental intervention targeted misuse of alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drugs; (c) the intervention was compared to the standard of care, control or another intervention; (d) the outcomes under study included substance use or misuse; and (e) the study design was a controlled trial.
Results: Six studies were identified that met the inclusion criteria. Three studies were conducted during the acute phase of recovery using brief interventions, while the remaining three were conducted with individuals in the post-acute phase (usually several years post-injury) using more intensive treatment. All studies were found to be vulnerable to bias due to methodological weaknesses.
Conclusions: While firm conclusions could not be drawn from the results of the studies, each study provided important information about the challenges to conducting SUD intervention trials with persons with TBI. The choices researchers will have to make to address these challenges are delineated.