People overdosing on opioids may suffer from memory loss - Sovereign Health Group
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People overdosing on opioids may suffer from memory loss

In 2012, when a 22-year-old man showed up at a hospital in Boston suburb complaining of memory loss and extreme confusion following a possible opioid overdose, doctors were quick to diagnose him with an inability to form new memories, known as anterograde amnesia. The lead neurologist, who examined the man at that time, observed something strange in his brain scan report. The two seahorse-shaped structures of the patient’s hippocampi appeared lit up in contrast to the dark background of the rest of the brain. The neurologist concluded it was the impact of chronic injury to that part of the brain.

Although neurologists were aware that the hippocampi could change short-term memories into permanent ones, they couldn’t provide a clear reason for the partial damage to the man’s brain. In the months that followed, the doctors in the hospital came to know that opioids had a role to play in the man’s memory loss. Moreover, the case became even more acute in the next three years, when three more patients reported similar problems following an opioid overdose. At this point of time, the doctors began to ponder over the reasons behind the occurrence.

Though the reasons remain unanswered, a recent case report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests the involvement of a potent variant of opioid. According to the report, toxicologists in West Virginia examined a case of a patient who overdosed on fentanyl, a deadly opioid, and ended up with impaired memory. The report found fentanyl responsible for the symptoms. In the wake of the ongoing opioid crisis, experts believe there could be many more similar cases as drugs like fentanyl are rarely tested for in toxicological screenings.

According to experts from President Donald Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, it is important to get to the underlying causes of overdose-related amnesia cases. They believe that the kind of cognitive testing required to detect memory loss may not be available to overdose survivors. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), in 2016, 14 cases of people suffering from amnesia after an overdose were identified. In May 2017, the MDPH made it mandatory to report any “unusual amnestic syndrome,” combined with “acute, bilateral hippocampal” damage.

Kicking menace of opioid addiction

Abuse of prescription opioids is destroying many families, depriving the nation of productive time, money and manpower. Doctors, patients and pharmacists play an important role in identifying and preventing any unauthorized use of prescription drugs, as well as instances of doctor shopping. Physicians must incorporate more evidence-based screening tools as a part of any consultation process. While, patients should be educated about the dangers of opioid overdose, pharmacists need to be vigilant in recognizing counterfeit prescriptions or any alterations that could lead to abuse.

Over the decades, the perception of opioids in the U.S. has undergone a drastic transformation. It is a common term, which encompasses all categories of prescription drugs producing pain-relieving effects by acting on opioid receptors in the nervous system. The repeated use of opioids by patients suffering from chronic pain can result in a progressive development of tolerance and dependence. As opioids, which don’t come cheap, can be obtained on producing a valid prescription, most people with addiction to painkillers soon advance to heroin use. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2000 to 2015, more than half a million people died due to drug overdoses.

The only way to break free from the clutches of addictive opioid pills is to seek professional treatment at one of the reputed prescription drug detox centers to reverse the devastating effects of the drugs. Sovereign Health understands the plight of someone who is unable to discontinue the use of opioids despite knowing the negative impact on his or her life. Our customized treatments for prescription drug addiction are aimed at treating patients holistically. If you or your loved one is battling addiction to any prescription drug, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know about the most effective treatment programs at our world-class treatment centers.

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