Former Scots soldier claims brain injury turned him into gambling addict
A former soldier has told how he racked up thousands of pounds of gambling debts after a head injury led him to develop an addictive personality.
Fraser Howie, 25, is now calling for access to online gambling sites to be toughened up after he was left with £12,000 of debt.
Mr Howie, from Paisley, claimed injuries he sustained in a car crash when he was 18 and home on leave radically altered his personality.
He was a passenger in a car which crashed into a tree in the nearby Glennifer Braes Country Park in 2010, with the accident leaving him with a broken neck and spinal fractures, as well as fractures to his skull, eye socket, nose, legs and arms.
He completely lost his sense of smell after the accident, but Mr Howie - who was doing his basic training with the Royal Regiment of Scotland at the time - also claimed he developed an addictive personality disorder and behaviour issues as a result.
He said: “I was completely oblivious to my gambling addiction - I just thought I was playing online games but had no idea it was causing such huge problems.
“I couldn’t get bookies to waive the debts so that’s why they need to change how their platforms are accessed so brain injury survivors don’t suffer more than they already have.”
Mr Howie was in an induced coma for six days after the accident, and then endured 18 months of surgeries to rebuild his broken face, neck and limbs.
He spoke out about his ordeal ahead of a head innjury information day organised by Digby Brown Solicitors.
Mr Howie recalled: “At first we joked about how my lack of smell made me use too much aftershave.
“But over time people saw me get unnecessarily angry at trivial things or act erratically.”
He added: “It’s an out of sight, out of mind thing - if you see a wheelchair user or blind person you are more likely to be sympathetic or adjust your actions for them.
“But with a brain injury it’s assumed you’re stupid as you struggle to read, or you’re on drugs because you walk or talk differently - it can be lonely and frustrating because you don’t feel understood.
“But my life is my own again and I would encourage other survivors to simply not give up.”
Dr Fraser Morrison, consultant clinical psychologist with Alba Psychology has helped with Mr Howie’s recovery.
He said: “Fraser’s ABI (acquired brain injury) was a diffused injury where a whole area like the frontal lobe is affected rather than one precise part.
“In these cases it causes difficulties in planning, short-term memory, multi-tasking, or triggers addictive behaviour. But Fraser is a great example of how ABI survivors can recover and thrive.”
Chris Stewart, the head of the serious injury department at Digby Brown, said: “Sadly we encounter cases like Fraser’s every day, but it makes his account all the more important in the hope of inspiring other survivors, their friends, family and carers.
“That is why we are committed to ensuring people have access to the best legal advice possible to help them regain control of their future.”