Opioid Addiction and Brain Damage: How Amnesia and Fentanyl Abuse are Linked
The abuse of drugs was the cause of more than 64,000 people dying in the United States in 2016, according to a report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The drug that was behind the majority of overdose deaths is the highly potent fentanyl. But now a new concern has surfaced that links fentanyl abuse with amnesia. The connection between fentanyl addiction and brain damage is one which we will explore in this article.
The Massachusetts Cases
Between 2012 and 2016, there were 14 patients that were treated for amnesia in Massachusetts. According to toxicology reports, 13 of these patients had opioids in their system. At the time, fentanyl had not yet appeared on the radar and therefore wasn’t specifically tested for.
In the earlier years of the opioid crisis, fentanyl was only being obtained by people stealing it from medical facilities. However, a few illegal manufactures realized the potential for profits by mass producing the drug and importing it into the country. It was added to other opioids including heroin, making each dose of heroin a risk because there was no way to tell the potency since fentanyl is roughly 50 to 100 times stronger that morphine.
By 2017, the fentanyl problem had come to light and when another four people were brought into emergency care for amnesia, they were tested for fentanyl, which they all tested positive for. In fact, two of the patients only had fentanyl in their system, showing the possible fentanyl addiction and brain damage connection. It was then believed that due to the drug causing a heavily-reduced oxygen supply to the brain that it could be behind that fentanyl addiction and brain damage that was occurring.
Brain Damage from Drugs
A condition known as anterograde amnesia is what was happening to the patients in the Massachusetts cases. The brain damage from drugs in this case was categorized by the loss of the ability to from new memories from the time that they overdosed on fentanyl.
The main affected region in the fentanyl addiction and brain damage cases was the hippocampus – the part of your brain that deals with the formation and storing of memories. Scans revealed irregularities in the hippocampus in the patients being treated for amnesia.
Signs of Brain Damage from Overdose
The main cause of brain damage in opioid overdose cases is the lack of oxygen that reaches the brain, which in opioids is caused by the slowed breathing rate or even the complete cessation of breathing. When this occurs, it takes just 3 to 5 minutes before the brain starts to suffer permanent damage.
Some of the damage caused by the lack of oxygen may be difficult to notice at first and only reveal themselves as time goes by. The signs of brain damage from overdose include the following:
- Vision and hearing can become impaired.
- Poor concentration.
- Memory impairment.
- Coordination suffers, which affects balance and movement.
- Writing, reading and communication skills become impaired.
- If the person is without oxygen for long enough, they may suffer from severe brain damage causing a vegetative state, retardation and eventually death.
It is never too late to find professional help for an addiction to opioids such as fentanyl. Get in touch with Better Addiction Care today at 1-800-429-7690 to find out what treatments are available to you.