“We talk a lot about people who don’t survive overdoses, but we aren’t talking about people who survive repeated overdoses and the impact that might have on them and their functioning. If their memory is really compromised, it’s going to be hard for them to learn a new life that doesn’t involve drugs.”
~ Dr. Marc Haut, PhD, Department Chair, Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry, West Virginia University School of Medicine
Because of the rising tide of overdose deaths, fentanyl has overtaken heroin as the “most dangerous drug in America”. But in a new case study published February 2018 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr. Haut has uncovered an alarming new risk associated with fentanyl use – amnesia.
“Every day is pretty much a new day for them…”
After discovering an unexpected cluster of amnesia cases among substance abusers in the state of Massachusetts, researchers theorized that in some individuals, a fentanyl overdose triggers a specific form of sudden, rapid onset amnesia. Neuroimaging and other laboratory tests support that hypothesis.
Symptoms include severe short-term memory loss and lesions on the hippocampus, the brain region associated with memory. Recovery is not quick, and researchers are not sure if the victims will ever regain your short-term memory.
“They all have difficulty learning new information, and it’s pretty dense…sometimes within a day, they can’t maintain information they’ve learned,” Dr. Haut said.
It’s believed that the patients suffered undetected overdoses that temporarily stopped their breathing or heart, which in turn cut off the oxygen to their brains and caused the lesions. The potency of the fentanyl worsened the effect.
Dr. Haut worries that with the increasing incidence of fentanyl-laced heroin and counterfeit pills, doctors will soon be seeing waves of new victims.
Fentanyl-spiked counterfeit drugs have changed the addiction landscape. Now, a dose that could cause permanent disability or even death can be measured in amounts as small as a few salt crystals.
The best way to safeguard your health is to seek professional treatment that helps you return to a drug-free life. If you are ready to regain your sobriety, Lasting Recovery is one of the top outpatient addiction treatment centers in San Diego.
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